A Different Kind of Test-Taking Standard; The Multiple Retake-3/4 Model

Date: October 7th, 2013

TheByteDaily

A Different Kind of Test-Taking Standard; The Multiple Retake-3/4 Model

It goes without saying that Canadian schools, are in dire need of reform. The two loudest arguments blame teachers for not teaching properly and parents for not letting them teach, but I believe that one of the real problems lies in the grading and prescribing of tests. The current test-taking system, in which students are given a single chance at writing an assessment to gauge how much they remember is flawed because it leaves many students mindlessly memorizing and regurgitating facts for the sole purpose of getting a good grade.

I believe that a greater understanding of course material can be given to students by simply allowing multiple attempts at quizzes, tests, and exams.

In the new test-taking model, the concept of grading remains unchanged. When students write a test for the first time, their papers will be graded normally, but after receiving their letter or number grades, students will be given a three day grace period to consider retaking an exam on the same material. If students choose to retake a test, 3/4 of the exam will be old questions from the original test while the remaining 1/4 will be new questions to gauge whether or not students truly did take the time to review the material and prepare again. If students choose to ignore the opportunity to retake the test – because they were satisfied with their initial grade, or otherwise – their grade for that particular examination will remain the same.

For each subsequent retake, students will be given three days to weigh their options, and the 3/4 distribution will continue to take effect. Eventually, I expect the grade of the student to approach a near perfect state, while simultaneously leaving the student with a firm understanding of the material.

With this model, less emphasis is placed on achieving a good grade, and more emphasis is placed on doing well and understanding the course material.

Instead of forcing students to memorize an arbitrary number of facts and details in the hopes that their preparation pays off, students will be expected to understand their course material in order to constantly do better. For the argument that students will simply memorize answers from the initial exams to take with them to the next ones, I make the case that real learning is the result of constant repetition in addition to understanding.

Mathematics and the physical sciences prove this. Word problems in math, chemistry, physics, and biology enforce the need to understand subject concepts and the need to know how to solve the problems that are given. Purely memorizing the solution of a single kind of word problem in any of these disciplines only works for other word problems if the questions are the same but the numbers are changed. The so-called “Plug-and-Chug” method of problem solving, where a question is solved by simply plugging numbers into a formula, ceases to be a legitimate problem solving tool the instant a differently worded question is given. It’s simply not enough to know what the variables refer to, but also how to mix, match, and reconsider variables in different situations to work towards an answer.

Pure memorization is harmful because it leads to students dumping out information and knowledge at the end of each assessment in order to fill their minds with more information that will eventually be dumped out. Simply put, pure memorization is to the mind what bulimia is to the body; a rapid, morbid intake that concludes in nothing more than a harmful purge, leaving the individual wanting, unsatisfied, and worse off than before.

In this way, the “Multiple Retake-3/4” model (MR34) of test-taking takes the best lessons math and physical science can teach: The best way to learn is through constant repetition, understanding, and a wide question bank to practice from. By literally allowing every student an equal opportunity at achieving a perfect score, grades – wide ranging number values – stop serving as an indication of a student’s intelligence. The MR34 method adds an additional benefit: Instead of having certain students who excel in certain subject while struggling in others, all students are given an equal chance at excelling at all of their subjects.

Despite these benefits, there are issues to be addressed beyond the time and effort teachers would need to add to their schedules and classrooms.

Chief among these issues is the argument that schools aren’t designed to give every student an equal opportunity at success, and that having a large pool of intelligent students over-saturates the job market. However, the MR34 method allows the best and brightest to maintain their spots, much like the current test-taking standard. Students aren’t forced to retake their tests, they are simply encouraged to do so; just because the opportunity is present to every student, that doesn’t mean that every student will choose to take advantage of it. That is to say, the best and brightest will remain the best and brightest, but those who aren’t faring as well have a chance to do even better. Instead of having the “Smart kids,” the “Average kids,” and the “Not-Smart kids,” classrooms will be filled with the “Really Smart kids,” the “Smart kids,” and the “Kids who didn’t take advantage of the benefits that the MR34 offers.”

Furthermore, the students who have “One bad day,” or who suffer from test-anxiety, will have an opportunity to make up for their temporary misfortune.

Another concern lies with post-secondary acceptance, post-graduate acceptance, and job-searching: How do universities and other such institutions determine whether a student is worth accepting if every student has good grades? In these cases, extracurricular activities, teacher referrals, interviews, and a more intensive round of selection must take place in order to determine an applicant’s aptitude.

Obviously, it goes without saying that the MR34 is completely useless if post-secondary and post-graduate institutions don’t adopt similar reforms. If students accustomed to retaking tests ad infinitum are forced to adapt to a system where a single test is the difference between success and failure, I hypothesize that a noticeable drop in attendance records, class GPA, and entrance numbers will occur.

Furthermore, there are professions that are specifically designed to avoid the possibility of a redo. Medicine, engineering, law, and other such backgrounds place employees in pass or fail situations on a daily basis; a single incision is the difference between a successful bypass and death, one wrong calculation can result in an entire suspension system failing, and a single unprepared argument can be the difference between freedom and life in prison.

Understandably, a strong argument can be made against the MR34 on this basis alone.

However, I argue that the surgeon who measures 10 times to make a single cut is less likely to make a mistake than the physician who immediately prescribes ACE inhibitors without running diagnostic tests first. For medical colleges, engineering programs, and law schools that adopt the MR34 model, it’s the job of the teachers and instructors to insure that every student they pass has the necessary skills for the field they have studied.

The MR34 doesn’t make it easier to do well; I propose that teachers maintain their exams’ level of difficulty. Instead, the MR34 model forces students to review their notes, and engage in constant testing to gauge their level of understanding in a way that could potentially reduce the anxiety of passing. In fact, the MR34 doesn’t even make it easier to get into a specialized form of education. In the cases of med school or law school, the respective standardized tests will remain unaffected by the proposed model; the MCATS and LSATS already follow a similar model to the MR34 anyway, with an exception being that test-takers are not given 3/4 of their old exams on their next attempt. Neither are test-takers given three days to consider retaking the exams with the 3/4 rule in place.

I propose that a strong step towards a more efficient, and well-informed student body is by taking test-taking reforms into consideration. I believe that the Multiple Retake-3/4 model of test-taking, though merely a rough idea now, can prove to be highly beneficial to both students, society, and the future of this country. By reducing the emphasis on answering a question correctly, and increasing emphasis on understanding why an answer is correct, I believe that students will be able to gain a better understanding of their studies, in addition to acquiring a wider, farther-reaching skill-set.

I believe the MR34 can be the future of education in Canada. Education and knowledge, after all, are the two most important tools for a well-informed and confident electorate.

As always, this has been your Admin, the blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-SC(EK)

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