School tests

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Bearboy
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School tests

Postby Bearboy » Sun Oct 25, 2009 10:11 am UTC

My brother is currently stressing himself to death over his HSC tests(Year 12 final examinations). And because of his stress I have been thinking of how crap the whole testing methods are.

You spend 2 years(Actually 12 but..) studying your 6 or more subjects and do all your tests and assignments your school gives you. Then after the 2 years you sit a statewide test worth 50% of your final mark(The other 50 coming from your school tests) and even then your school mark can get changed depending on how your school goes in the HSC tests. All these tests you do are spread over 3 weeks but if you are really unlucky you can get them all in the first 6 days depending on subjects.

So this just leads to thousands of young people spending a whole month cramming for a series of tests which more or less decide whether you get into university or not because your final mark is so heavily weighted from this one exam.

Is it just me or is this designed to kill those who are susceptable to stress?(My brother is Autistic and the only help he gets is breaks during the test which he can't write in)

Also if anyone wants to complain about how crap the examinations are in their area go for it. I hear many US schools teach to the test just so they can get funding instead of teaching the students properly.

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Vaniver
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Re: School tests

Postby Vaniver » Sun Oct 25, 2009 4:29 pm UTC

High stakes testing is certainly stressful. But is that a bad thing?

Stress is a part of life, and there are definitely ways to artificially increase the stress. But high-stress high-impact events happen- from job interviews to first dates to getting mugged.

It seems to me that the proper response isn't to complain about the test, but the source of stress. Going to 'the best' college, even going to college at all, is not necessary. If you don't get in to your top choice, life goes on. If you don't get into any school, life goes on. Focus on that, rather than The Test.
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Mokele
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Re: School tests

Postby Mokele » Sun Oct 25, 2009 5:54 pm UTC

Stress is a part of life, and there are definitely ways to artificially increase the stress. But high-stress high-impact events happen- from job interviews to first dates to getting mugged.


Fieldwork. You'll be halfway across the planet, possibly hundreds of miles from civilization. You need to figure out everything you need beforehand, cover ever contingency, forget nothing, and then perform flawlessly, possibly for weeks, in highly adverse conditions. If anything goes wrong, the whole trip could be a wash, thousands of dollars and years of preparation down the drain, and, depending on the situation, serious or mortal injury may result.

A test that forces you to perform under stress should be a requirement of education, not something to be avoided.
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psychosomaticism
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Re: School tests

Postby psychosomaticism » Sun Oct 25, 2009 6:37 pm UTC

Mokele wrote:
Stress is a part of life, and there are definitely ways to artificially increase the stress. But high-stress high-impact events happen- from job interviews to first dates to getting mugged.


Fieldwork. You'll be halfway across the planet, possibly hundreds of miles from civilization. You need to figure out everything you need beforehand, cover ever contingency, forget nothing, and then perform flawlessly, possibly for weeks, in highly adverse conditions. If anything goes wrong, the whole trip could be a wash, thousands of dollars and years of preparation down the drain, and, depending on the situation, serious or mortal injury may result.

A test that forces you to perform under stress should be a requirement of education, not something to be avoided.


While I do agree with this, is there not something to be said that these year end tests (which seem a bit steep, Canadian year end, at least in British Columbia, are only 40% of the final grade in 12th grade) are stressful situations with nothing prior to prepare? I don't mean that there aren't tests, but this seems like the first time something this large is given to the students thus far. Would it not be more beneficial to build up stressful situations through multiple and incremental tasks so that, although important and difficult, it wouldn't be so detrimental to both cognition and emotion?

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oxy
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Re: School tests

Postby oxy » Sun Oct 25, 2009 9:20 pm UTC

In New Jersey (in the US tests vary be state), the required tests aren't too bad. Its mostly just that you have to pass a ridiculously easy standardized test called the HSPA, that the school gets stressed about but the students don't really. If you don't pass, you don't graduate, but pretty much everyone passes the first time, and you can take it twice more and still graduate on time. People who have mental difficulties can get a bunch of conditions.

The important test is the SATs. Thats what you to get stressed about, because its what the colleges look at.

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Figment
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Re: School tests

Postby Figment » Mon Oct 26, 2009 6:01 pm UTC

The state of Missouri recently changed their mandatory state tests to yearly end of course exams. So instead of a long test every other year that only covers one or two subjects, we have several long tests every year in each core subject, required to pass the class. And not only at the highschool level. I was a part of "test group" for the English III portion of the tests (forced to become a guinea pig for my state government) the year before they were implemented, and we hadn't learned anything in those tests in our class that year. So what did our brilliant school do? They frantically rewrote our school's entire curriculum to match the test, even though they had no clue what the tests would be like the next year. Also, the test is the same for each three levels of the core classes (so the students in the special education classes are taking a test identical to the ones that are givin to the AP/honors students).
This new program is only encouraging schools to "teach for the test" more, and is forcing Missouri schools to have near identical curriculum.

It probably shouldn't bother me this much, since I'm graduating this year before the new testing program is fully implemented, but I feel sorry for my younger brother.

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eSOANEM
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Re: School tests

Postby eSOANEM » Mon Oct 26, 2009 6:47 pm UTC

Personally I am very grateful that England is making more GCSEs (taken at 16) and A levels (taken at 18) entirely exam based or at least increasing the proportion of the mark that is the exam.

A good example of why this is good, the IT course is 60% coursework and 40% exam. The threshold for A* is 80% (give or take). Because the schools get given the mark scheme for the coursework ahead of time they can make sure that everyone gets full marks in it meaning people only need to get 50% in the exam to get an A*. This is ridiculous, the exam is so easy that despite having been taught none of it, my friends and I all finished it within a quarter of the time and all got at least 75%.

An example of the opposite end of the spectrum is maths which at GCSE is entirely exam-based, having seen the grades my classmates got in the mock I can comfortably say that only those who actually knew the maths got the top grades whereas in English or History coursework, the worst people were still getting good grades because they were being given the mark scheme. People may get stressed out by it but as people have already said, stress is part of the real world and pupils shouldn't be shielded from it.
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oxy
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Re: School tests

Postby oxy » Mon Oct 26, 2009 9:01 pm UTC

Figment wrote:The state of Missouri recently changed their mandatory state tests to yearly end of course exams. So instead of a long test every other year that only covers one or two subjects, we have several long tests every year in each core subject, required to pass the class. And not only at the highschool level. I was a part of "test group" for the English III portion of the tests (forced to become a guinea pig for my state government) the year before they were implemented, and we hadn't learned anything in those tests in our class that year. So what did our brilliant school do? They frantically rewrote our school's entire curriculum to match the test, even though they had no clue what the tests would be like the next year. Also, the test is the same for each three levels of the core classes (so the students in the special education classes are taking a test identical to the ones that are givin to the AP/honors students).
This new program is only encouraging schools to "teach for the test" more, and is forcing Missouri schools to have near identical curriculum.

It probably shouldn't bother me this much, since I'm graduating this year before the new testing program is fully implemented, but I feel sorry for my younger brother.



Hmm. Yeah, New Jersey is actually starting to move this way, too. Starting last year, the Freshmen have to take a ridiculously easy end of the year biology exam, but is still twice as long as the AP Biology exam that I was taking the same time of year. Our school's bio teacher had some choice words to say about this exam. I don't think that it actually counted for anything, either. But they might make it mandatory for graduation or something in the future. And maybe put one in for more courses. Bunch of BS in my opinion...

I too feel sorry for those who have to go through the system after me... but I'm not sorry I managed to get by without this.

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Re: School tests

Postby Chen » Tue Oct 27, 2009 5:12 pm UTC

Bearboy wrote:So this just leads to thousands of young people spending a whole month cramming for a series of tests which more or less decide whether you get into university or not because your final mark is so heavily weighted from this one exam.


The larger failure is the fact that tests given are often much more about memorization than about understanding. This leads to this cramming effect at the end. If people were actually learning material and not memorizing it, end of year tests wouldn't be nearly as bad (unless of course you were slacking during the year). The problem is many tests are just focussed regurgitating material rather than trying to understand it.

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Mokele
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Re: School tests

Postby Mokele » Tue Oct 27, 2009 5:43 pm UTC

The larger failure is the fact that tests given are often much more about memorization than about understanding. This leads to this cramming effect at the end. If people were actually learning material and not memorizing it, end of year tests wouldn't be nearly as bad (unless of course you were slacking during the year). The problem is many tests are just focussed regurgitating material rather than trying to understand it.


The problem is - how do you design a test that *doesn't* require that, especially when it needs to be administered to a large/huge group and graded quickly and fairly? Especially covering a large amount of information over several subjects. IME, the only tests I've ever had that really tested true *understanding* were either oral exams (thesis defense or verbal language fluency) or well-constructed tests with essay answers administered to very small classes (<30).

Also, memorization isn't all bad - at the end of the day, there's a lot of stuff you just plain need to memorize, especially at lower levels of the subject that are covered in high school. I've found the sheer amount of memorized information I have about my field (biology at the organism level) to be very useful, especially since this information cannot be simple derived as it can in physics.
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LaserGuy
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Re: School tests

Postby LaserGuy » Tue Oct 27, 2009 7:45 pm UTC

Bearboy wrote:My brother is currently stressing himself to death over his HSC tests(Year 12 final examinations). And because of his stress I have been thinking of how crap the whole testing methods are.

You spend 2 years(Actually 12 but..) studying your 6 or more subjects and do all your tests and assignments your school gives you. Then after the 2 years you sit a statewide test worth 50% of your final mark(The other 50 coming from your school tests) and even then your school mark can get changed depending on how your school goes in the HSC tests. All these tests you do are spread over 3 weeks but if you are really unlucky you can get them all in the first 6 days depending on subjects.

So this just leads to thousands of young people spending a whole month cramming for a series of tests which more or less decide whether you get into university or not because your final mark is so heavily weighted from this one exam.

Is it just me or is this designed to kill those who are susceptable to stress?(My brother is Autistic and the only help he gets is breaks during the test which he can't write in)

Also if anyone wants to complain about how crap the examinations are in their area go for it. I hear many US schools teach to the test just so they can get funding instead of teaching the students properly.


The problem is that your course grades are, to a large extent, meaningless. Or at least, very difficult to interpret. Schools don't have fixed standards for what constitutes an A, B, etc.--neither in terms of percentage nor in terms of evaluation required to reach that percentage. As a result, two people who both have grades--even from the same school!--may have radically different levels of proficiency of the subject material, to the point that any sensible comparison between them is meaningless. Standardized testing, for all its flaws, at least allows interested parties (universities, government) to be able to produce a fair comparison between individuals from different schools. Otherwise, the incentive for students is to go to the easiest school, take the easiest courses possible from the easiest teacher in order to maximize their grades and their chance of getting into university and/or getting scholarships, and the incentive for schools is to reduce the level of rigor in their curriculum since this would directly increase all of the indicators the government cares about--graduation rates, number of students going to university, etc.

That said, standardized testing suffers from two major flaws as I see it. One is that most standardized tests are too easy--that is, standardized tests do not, by and large, have questions that enable stakeholders to distinguish between students who are good at a subject, and students that are exceptional. This is purely a design flaw, but it is a persistent effect. Making the last, say, 15-20% of the exam very challenging would go a long way to solving this problem. The second problem is that most standardized tests are multiple choice--convenient for marking, but intellectually vapid. Moving to tests based on short answer or one-word-answer problems would certainly help here. For one word answers, if the results could be entered digitally, then this wouldn't have an effect on marking time.

An alternative that has been looking more attractive to me over the past few years has been abandonning grades entirely and moving to some other system. I'm not convinced grades actually provide any significant benefit--and they may actually be detrimental to the learning process.

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Vaniver
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Re: School tests

Postby Vaniver » Wed Oct 28, 2009 7:00 pm UTC

Mokele wrote:The problem is - how do you design a test that *doesn't* require that, especially when it needs to be administered to a large/huge group and graded quickly and fairly? Especially covering a large amount of information over several subjects. IME, the only tests I've ever had that really tested true *understanding* were either oral exams (thesis defense or verbal language fluency) or well-constructed tests with essay answers administered to very small classes (<30).
Pretty much all you can do is ask tricky questions- but that also has giant problems. There are a finite number of solvable tricks- and so the memorization problem is just one step further.

LaserGuy wrote:Moving to tests based on short answer or one-word-answer problems would certainly help here. For one word answers, if the results could be entered digitally, then this wouldn't have an effect on marking time.
Have you ever used an electronic homework system that uses short word answers? Programming in all of the correct answers is difficult, and penalizing students for formatting problems (should they get it right if they say sqrt(-1) instead of i? What about sqrt[-1]? Sqrt(-1)? (-1)^1/2? (-1)^(1/2)? -1^(1/2)?) is something that should be avoided.

LaserGuy wrote:An alternative that has been looking more attractive to me over the past few years has been abandonning grades entirely and moving to some other system. I'm not convinced grades actually provide any significant benefit--and they may actually be detrimental to the learning process.
The only strong contender that I know of is a competence/mastery system. That is, there are set units (Differentiation, Integration, Complex Integration, Romeo & Juliet, Poetry Writing I, etc.) for which relatively standardized tests can be developed, and students essentially build up a list of things that they have mastered (and perhaps have to retake the test later, to ensure that they maintain mastery). Instead of not particularly useful things like "Algebra II," you can learn what things the students actually know- and it would make it harder for smaller units to fall through the cracks, rather than a student's performance in a few areas to outweigh their holes in other areas (I'm still bad at integration by parts, despite having seen it in several classes- if I had to take a test just on it, I might know it better). Or, if they maintain those holes, it's obvious (and not necessarily a problem- we don't need everyone to master everything!).

Grades essentially become checkmarks- though you could have multiple grades (incompetent, competent, master, or whatever) if there's some use to that.

The primary problem with this method is that it exacerbates the problem of teaching to the test. If there's no external recognition of it, then there's no reason to teach it- your student can't put it on their transcript. The preponderance of tests may make this less of a problem- but it's still a problem, especially for courses that don't subdivide well.
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The Happy Genius
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Re: School tests

Postby The Happy Genius » Wed Oct 28, 2009 7:09 pm UTC

I see it like this. Standardized tests aren't meant to test students as much as they're meant to test the schools programs.

This is a bad way to do it and I feel better time could be set using a system like ABET accreditation in US universities.

The state sets out program requirements, the individual districts and schools create a program that meets those standards for accreditation. The accreditation is then challenged yearly, or every other year, or whatever. Using a state accreditation office to check programs, and if a student passesthat program, they've obviously been taught to state standards.

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Re: School tests

Postby Bearboy » Thu Oct 29, 2009 5:51 am UTC

Well my brother has done his maths exams already and if was pretty fucked up to say the least.

Because of his Autism and special provisions(5 minute break every hour) he has to be in a seperate exam room with supervision.

He goes to his maths exam, he's the only person with special provisions sitting the test, the test starts(Statewide) and it turns out the exam superviser haven't got the right exam for him. Neither can leave the room because that would be against rules and he would get a 0 immeadiantly and noone had anyway of contacting someone else(My school, because they are stupid, emptied out a whole corridor for students with special provisions. A whole corridor for one person.) to get them the test. Finally after 20minutes when the head examiner came in to check on my bro he was told of it and 30 minutes into a 3 hour exam my bro finally got to start the test.

So naturally he is applying for illness/misadventure(If your sick/dead/turn up late you can do this and get an estimation from your school mark) and because he actually sat the test, turned up on time and has the support of the head examiner he will get an estimation and a good one(He is top in maths at our school).

sikyon
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Re: School tests

Postby sikyon » Thu Oct 29, 2009 4:33 pm UTC

Tests are... I don't mind tests. Why?

The stress factor is a part of life. You will be called to perform under high pressure conditions, and often by definition the critical conditions will be the most stressful.

Now are tests reflective of how well you know the course material?

In my experience, if it is a long test, then yes. Short tests have alot of statistical shot noise but longer tests, I find, test your "fluency" in the topic. That is, I read this one comparison in a calculus study book a few months ago. I've paraphrased it below.

"Let's say that you study for a calculus exam, and you know how to do the questions, but when you get there you freeze up. Alot of people blame this on the test conditions, but think of this scenario. You've practiced saying "where is the bathroom" in french dozens of times. But when you get to france and really have to use the john, you can't remember the phrase. That's because you were never fluent in french. You might have practiced using that phrase more than any french person, but when it came down to it you were not fluent in french. This is the same thing you should expect for any other type of study. If you are fluent in a topic, then you will be able to perform regardless of the amount of test conditions or the material."

This is how I now approach studying. Yes, it's very hard but I really try and immerse myself in the content and understand everything. A good tip is to take what you learn in school, and go look around. See how it applies to the real world. If you see a light hanging off the ceiling, imagine a force balance. If you see a fire burning, imagine the chemical reaction. If you see a vaccume cleaner, imagine the ideal gas law. Use what you've learned everyday, and it's just like being immersed in another language. Except you don't have to travel to france.

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Re: School tests

Postby MiB24601 » Wed Nov 04, 2009 4:55 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:High stakes testing is certainly stressful. But is that a bad thing?

Stress is a part of life, and there are definitely ways to artificially increase the stress. But high-stress high-impact events happen- from job interviews to first dates to getting mugged.


While I minded many of the high stakes tests that I had to take in the past and that I have to take in the future, it's not because of the stakes. Rather, I hate it when the test is supposed to be a practical evaluation of our skills and knowledge and yet, the test sets conditions that don't exist in practice. For example, I remember taking an organic chemistry exam after working in a lab and it just struck me as silly that we would have to memorize every synthesis reactions when we were designing a reaction pathway when every chemist I worked with would look them up. Additionally, one of my law professors has often been quoted as saying that if law students practiced law the same way they are tested on the law, they would quickly be disbarred.

However, the problem is that there really isn't a method of testing that more closely follows practice of those fields that wouldn't cost a lot in terms of time and money, so it seems that we're all stuck with high-stress exams.
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Sero
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Re: School tests

Postby Sero » Thu Nov 05, 2009 4:39 pm UTC

Here, we have End of Instruction tests in some specific subjects (meaning, not for all English classes, but for English II, or whatever). It really is kind of a startling difference between classes that have EOIs and classes that don't. Very much a case of 'teaching to the test'. The years I took them, they weren't a requirement to graduate, but I believe my year is the last year not to have to pass them to graduate. Actually, it was something like you can fail...ergh, sorry, trying to dredge up memories from a couple of years ago, I don't have any EOIs this year. But you can only fail so many EOIs, or not be able to graduate. It was odd, and unintuitive.

Anyways, my English II teacher really hated it. What happens to a student who has to pass their every remaining EOI to graduate? They're placed under incredible pressure. Which, as some have said, may not be entirely unreasonable, sometimes you are under that sort of pressure in real life. It gets worse, however, when, what happens when you exceed the number of EOIs you can fail? You can't graduate. What then? What motive do you have to stay in school? Of course, you can retake a failed EOI...12 months later, when they offer the next EOI. When you've been out of the class for a year. When you've had a year to forget the material. If you can't pass it after being in the appropriate class for a year, what makes the state legislature think you'll be able to pass it a year later with no further schooling? He was convinced, and I agree, that it's going to lead to a big spike in dropouts.
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sikyon
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Re: School tests

Postby sikyon » Thu Nov 05, 2009 5:07 pm UTC

Sero wrote:Here, we have End of Instruction tests in some specific subjects (meaning, not for all English classes, but for English II, or whatever). It really is kind of a startling difference between classes that have EOIs and classes that don't. Very much a case of 'teaching to the test'. The years I took them, they weren't a requirement to graduate, but I believe my year is the last year not to have to pass them to graduate. Actually, it was something like you can fail...ergh, sorry, trying to dredge up memories from a couple of years ago, I don't have any EOIs this year. But you can only fail so many EOIs, or not be able to graduate. It was odd, and unintuitive.

Anyways, my English II teacher really hated it. What happens to a student who has to pass their every remaining EOI to graduate? They're placed under incredible pressure. Which, as some have said, may not be entirely unreasonable, sometimes you are under that sort of pressure in real life. It gets worse, however, when, what happens when you exceed the number of EOIs you can fail? You can't graduate. What then? What motive do you have to stay in school? Of course, you can retake a failed EOI...12 months later, when they offer the next EOI. When you've been out of the class for a year. When you've had a year to forget the material. If you can't pass it after being in the appropriate class for a year, what makes the state legislature think you'll be able to pass it a year later with no further schooling? He was convinced, and I agree, that it's going to lead to a big spike in dropouts.


You make it sound like graduating is a right... and not something earned...

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Re: School tests

Postby Sero » Sun Nov 08, 2009 1:21 am UTC

No, but you chose to interpret what I said that way.

I was saying (or implying, or however you care to phrase it) that the opportunity to earn graduating is a right. At-risk students are disadvantaged by it because if they fail an EOI it puts them in a situation of having even less chance of recovering from their failure than they had the first time around. No additional assistance in learning the material is given, no alternative methods of demonstrating competency and comprehension are available. Graduating from a school isn't a right but I'm uncomfortable with a school putting a student in a situation of being unable to succeed.
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Re: School tests

Postby dragoneye1589 » Sun Nov 08, 2009 6:32 am UTC

psychosomaticism wrote:While I do agree with this, is there not something to be said that these year end tests (which seem a bit steep, Canadian year end, at least in British Columbia, are only 40% of the final grade in 12th grade) are stressful situations with nothing prior to prepare? I don't mean that there aren't tests, but this seems like the first time something this large is given to the students thus far. Would it not be more beneficial to build up stressful situations through multiple and incremental tasks so that, although important and difficult, it wouldn't be so detrimental to both cognition and emotion?


British Columbia provincial exams don't have the problem that you are describing, where the major exam is the first stressful exam that the student will encounter. The standardized provincial exams are taken in Grades 10 and 11, at which point that are only worth a small portion of the final grade. I believe this is the single good thing about the standardized testing system here, as the students get used to the stress of testing.

I have taken the BC Provincial exams and I do believe that they are really badly designed exams, suffering from the exact same problem that most standardized exams suffer. They don't promote learning for understanding, and teachers just end up teaching how to take the exam, as they are almost identical each year. I took one course where I taught myself, and understood the course thoroughly, but didn't know the test, this caused me to do unwell on the exam compared to many other students, who were just taught the test, and it cost me a scholarship to the university I currently attend.

Now that I am in university I see how useless the exams I had taken previously were for preparing me for the type of testing in a university environment (in engineering anyway) where all my exams require me to apply my understanding, rather than just apply the knowledge of how the test will be presented. This was initially a shock to me when I was taking my first midterm exams, when I was opening an exam where I had never seen a problem like I was being presented with and being expected to solve it using what I was taught in class.

I look at it from a perspective of what will happen in the situation of a job after I'm finished with school (or in my current situation, on a work experience term). You may be put under stress where you are expected to apply your understanding to a problem you have never seen before. This is something you need to do to keep your job and progress in your field. The sooner that you get practice in these situations and the more often you get practice, the better off you will be for the future.

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Re: School tests

Postby Panique » Sun Nov 08, 2009 12:38 pm UTC

We take the HSPA here, at my school, during your 11th grade year. Basically, it is the test that determines if you're going to graduate highschool or not. If you fail it, you have to retake it during your 12th grade year, and if you fail again, you're a super senior!
I just took the SAT yesterday, which is another test the school tries to get us to take or Oh gosh! We could be bums for the rest of our lives!

Until this year of highschool, which is my last year, I have had teachers only teach me what I need to know to pass a test. Now that I can choose my courses, it's rather refreshing. We're not leading up to some so called epic test that can tell us if we're going to fail or not.

Let's see, how many official tests did they make my class take? GEPA, PSAT [twice actually], HSPA, SAT, what ever that one for Bio was, all the finals for each class. For each one of those, my teachers have gone into panic saying that we're all going to fail horribly. It puts so much stress on us... Also, it's just silly because we're being taught information ONLY for these tests.

And that's my little rant. owo;


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