Tests only measure test-taking ability

(U-WIRE) MADISON, Wis. — Given the staggering amount of tuition most college students will pay in their four or five years of undergraduate study, I am surprised with the relatively low amount of dissension of the student body towards the standard practice of simply attending lectures and then taking tests that supposedly measure our grasp of the information. I find myself over halfway through my first four years of college and I can’t help but call into question the true value my education will have once I leave this university.

The main gripe I have against the standard routine of going to lectures, reading the text and cramming one night before an exam is that it generally does not accomplish the goals of any class. I sincerely hope our educators do not think that memorizing textbook diagrams and passages or important sections of class notes will help us achieve our goals in life, which is the main reason most people spend an immense amount of money going to college.

I endured the first two years of basic tests without much complaining because I always thought that once I moved on to more specialized classes I would notice a much more dynamic learning environment, but this has not been the case. It is possible for some people to miss almost every lecture in a given class and still do well enough on the exam to put them above the average score. This type of situation should never exist, since it essentially makes the professor’s role in many classes optional.

In my opinion, college has become simply a ranking process to put people in order according to their supposed abilities. The problem with this system is that one’s ability to score well on a given test does not correlate with how well one can actually use the information learned. Even though I have received many high grades on tests, it is probable that if I were to re-take some past exams that I did well on, my results would be pretty insulting.

Our test-taking culture has created workshops and classes on how to take tests, something that I find utterly ridiculous. The sheer purpose of such a workshop is to help you achieve higher test scores regardless of the information you need to comprehend. This is a very strange paradox. We have developed a system that rewards people for their test-taking achievements, and we have also created a way to help beat our own system with these informational workshops.

Despite the questionable value of testing in terms of long-term information retention, the issue that really turns my stomach is that these tests are supposed to be used as a yardstick for our initial employers upon graduation. When a potential employer looks at your resume, one of the very few quantitative scales that are available is your grade point average. Given the test-based nature of most college classes, however, you are being ranked according to your ability to take tests, not your true understanding of the necessary information.

I think it is imperative that our educational focus should be on developing people to achieve success after their college careers. Unfortunately, our current strategy of recognizing those with the highest test scores and grade point averages is creating a competition whose winner may have only mastered the ability to take tests effectively, which is of no use after graduation.