Last Thursday, my students were given in-class tests to help prepare them for the next checkpoint in two weeks. I observed the following about their test-taking skills (or lack thereof!):
1) Students immediately focused on the first question, without looking to see how long the test was or what subject areas it covered.
2) If a student didn’t understand a question, or didn’t know an answer, they were likely to sit and stare at it indefinitely instead of skipping it and moving to the next one.
3) Students rarely made use of answers imbedded within other questions on the test–each question appeared to them to be independent of the rest.
4) On the final essay question, a number of students chose to write nothing at all because they didn’t think they remembered anything about the material.
These observations got me thinking about when and how students learn to effectively take tests. My impression is that test-taking is a skill that is independent from the acquisition of knowledge. If this is true, and schools do not explicitly teach the skills necessary to exhibit learned knowledge through a test format, then perhaps sometimes students know more than we perceive? Is acquisition of knowledge synonymous with learning? Or, does learning require a change in behavior?