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5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Take Tests Too Seriously

Updated: Jul 2, 2023

We are now in the middle of End-of-Term tests and everyone is under pressure. Kids are stressed out because they think their Christmas vacation and gifts are dependent on their grades. Parents are anxious because all the family is going to ask about how their kids did in test and judge their parenting (as if that's anyone's business). And really, everyone needs to just take some deep breaths and relax. I know you think that end-of-term test is some big deal. But please, let's not make a mountain out of a molehill.

I'm not saying that I'm against Tests but I do believe that we grossly exaggerate the role they play in assessing a student's proficiency. In simpler terms, I do not believe that a grade on a test is the best indicator of how much a student knows or even how comfortable they are with a specific subject area. However, standardised testing continues to be the easiest way to assess a wide number of students in a very timely manner. And that's exactly what we need to do in traditional school given the constraints of the system that we have right?

But, as parents we should aim to have a deeper understanding of our children's abilities and learning needs. This is the only way that we can create opportunities for them to truly thrive. I know that it's deeply ingrained in us to believe that tests are the best way to assess performance and showcase a student's understanding. But I implore you to consider the following reasons as to why this may not be so:

  1. Traditional written tests do not cater to multiple intelligences. Written tests work best for students who can express themselves better in text. Students who have other dominant types of intelligence such as musical or spatial intelligence may not be able to showcase their true abilities in a written test.

  2. Test anxiety can adversely affect a student's performance. How many of us have ever experienced going blank in an exam because we were so nervous? Test anxiety is very real and it can prevent students from doing their best work.

  3. Factors, other than just "knowing their work", contribute to students' test performance. Things like rest, nutrition, burnout and physical conditions can affect a student's performance.

  4. It's unfair and illogical to use one test at the end of a period of time to give a full account of a student's learning and proficiency. If you only focus on a grade on a end-of-term test rather than look at the cumulative effort and performance throughout the term, you are taking a very limited view of the student's full journey.

  5. You can be an expert test-taker but lack the real understanding of content. Students can cram at the end of the term, get good grades and then forget every single thing they studied. Are their grades on such tests real indicators of their abilities then? I think not. Sadly, this happens straight up to the tertiary level and we end up with degree-holders who were just good test-takers.

Learning is multidimensional so shouldn't assessment of it be the same? More importantly, schooling should provide our kids with experiences that they can use in a real world context. If we fixate on test grades, we are communicating ways of thinking that are against a growth mindset. We're telling our kids, that the experiences that we gain along the journey of our education is not as important as a grade on one-dimensional test at the end of it all. We are not helping our kids to appreciate and fall in love with the process of learning if we make them feel like the destination is all that matters.

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