Parker Wright

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Times-Delphic Commentary: Test Taking

by Parker Wright

Originally published March 29, 2023 – via Times-Delphic

Click here for original article

Rote isn’t right: a test taker’s plight

Graphic by Liv Klassen | Times-Delphic Photo Editor, spring 2023

A few weeks ago I took my very first in-class exam since getting to college. Yep, you read that right, I’m almost done with my sophomore year of college and I just took my very first exam since high school.

I mean I am a writing and journalism major, all my “exams” up to this point were papers, essays, or articles. Any quiz/test I’ve had to take has been online, open note, use the resources we need.

This was the first exam where we sat in silence in class, pencil and paper, one hour on the clock, no notes or reference material. 

Anyways, it had been so long since I last took a proper exam like this that it reminded me of why exams suck. Exams are not a measure of how much you’ve learned, they only measure how well someone can memorize.

Teachers always say that it “prepares you for the real world.” Bull shit. With only a few exceptions, “in the real world” we have access to resources and if we don’t know something we can look it up. It’s 2023, it’s called using the resources at our disposal.

Like what’s the point of taking notes if you can’t use them to help you? Your notes are your work and at least show that you’re trying to learn. Without notes an exam just becomes a game of memory, which isn’t all that fair to those of us who are bad test takers and can’t memorize everything.

It’s even worse when you’re given a study guide but it doesn’t specify what is and isn’t on the test, you just have to memorize everything the best you can and hope what’s on the test is what you remember. But we all know Murphy’s Law kicks in and the stuff from the study guide you do focus on is NEVER the stuff on the actual exam.

Yes, I will openly admit that I bombed the test, but I did kind of assume that was gonna happen because I’ve never been a good test taker. At least when I don’t get to use resources designed to help obviously. 

Showing how you apply what you know and how you solve problems like not remembering or knowing something is what you should be tested on.

Unless you are a Mr. Perfect Prodigy, you don’t know everything. No one does, yet in school our success is measured by how much we know off the top of our head. The exception is teachers that do open note exams, because one again… THAT’S HOW THE REAL WORLD OPERATES!!

I can’t think of a single job where you are expected to remember every single thing 100%. Obviously there are professions where you should be an expert ie. a doctor, but even doctors don’t know everything, they too have to keep learning and relearning, and ask questions.

Not to mention this test was for a class that isn’t my major, it’s a credit I’m required to get out of the way, but if I leave this class with the basics I know and no more in-depth knowledge I’ll be fine.

So I’m just confused why it feels like I should be an expert in something that isn’t my area. It’s an introductory course, teach me the basics, let me show what I know and how I’ll use it and move on. This isn’t a game of memory.

I’ll be honest, the stuff I did memorize for the test, I’ve already forgotten. I was more focused on remembering than I was at actually learning.

To conclude this commentary that is really just a rant: unless it’s an open note test, it doesn’t properly measure what one has learned, just how good one is at memorizing. I don’t know, perhaps I’m alone in this. I just don’t think exams work or are all that fair.