Visions of Youth1/29/09

Exams: A necessary evil?

Jan. 29, 2009

By Kayla Purvis

What comes around twice a year, is dreaded by every high school student, and has kids cramming for a week? If you said exams, you’re correct. Whether they are midterms or finals, exams have us stressing and reviewing notes like crazy.

Though exams can be a pain in the butt and fairly stressful, I think they are really important parts of our education. Without them there wouldn’t be pressure for students to retain the information they’re taught throughout the course of a semester- or year-long class.

Having long, grade-influential tests twice a year also helps to prepare us for college. Our ability to effectively review, study and prepare for tests is an important skill to master. Exams also allow us to exercise our capability of recalling needed information and details from past classes.

Some students, like my friend Andrea Lavalette, 16, of Gilbert, Ariz., don’t like exams because, “They (teachers) expect us to remember stuff from the beginning of the year. I don’t even remember my own birthday sometimes! But they can be helpful for teachers.”

I’ve never really freaked out about exams. Yes, it can be a bit stressful to try and keep everything in your head for a collective test. But teachers don’t expect us to remember everything we have been taught; it’s an unlikely expectation to have fulfilled. We are constantly learning and experimenting, and we can forget the details sometimes.

That’s why exams have a certain advantage. They’re called “collective” tests because they’re a compilation of everything learned over the course of one or two semesters. This means that more content will be covered on the test, and thus the test will have more questions. With more questions, the student’s grade is hurt less by an incorrect answer because each question is worth fewer points.

For example, a test worth 100 points with four questions comes out to 25 points per question. If the students gets one answer wrong, she receives a 75 percent. But on a test worth 100 points with 50 questions, the questions are each worth only 2 points; one wrong answer would result in a 98 percent.

Believe it or not, our exams aren’t meant to torture us. (Okay, maybe a tiny bit.) They’re used to measure how much we learned within a certain time period and how well we use important skills. Those skills can be study skills, review skills, note-taking skills or reading skills, all of which are necessary to make our college life easier, if indeed we decide to take that route.

So, even though we dread one week in January and one week in June, we should remember that exams are helpful to us in a few different ways. They let us track our progress, practice skills and stir up our new knowledge a little bit. We even get half-days out of the deal.

And to students: Remember not to stress out too much! You already know what you’re being tested on, it’s just a matter of reviewing what you’ve learned.

Williston resident Kayla Purvis is a sophomore at Champlain Valley Union High School.