Testing, Testing, 1..2..3..

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?


About Sarah Roels

I'm a former Ph.D. student at the University of Kansas in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department. I study mating system evolution in plants, using the model system Mimulus. I now work at Michigan State University as their GK-12 project manager.
This entry was posted in 2011-2012 GK12, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Testing, Testing, 1..2..3..

  1. Robert C Everhart says:

    I’m trying to remember when I learned the test taking techniques. I distinctly remember a test in the 4th grade that said specifically at the top to read through *all* the questions before starting. There were about 50 or so questions and after the first few, some of them were things like stand up at your desk and wave or turn around twice and sit down, then the last question said something like “if you’ve just read through all the questions, do not answer anything. Turn your paper over and sit quietly.”

    It worked for me. Ever since then, I look through all the questions before I start.

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