PATEL: Create testing windows

Allowing students more freedom in choosing testing dates would help reduce stress

The dread from having two tests on the same day or a paper and a test is a feeling we students know too well. However, this is an unnecessary and meaningless struggle that teaches no lessons and doesn’t prepare students for the real world. Professors and University institutions need to recognize that these arbitrary decisions they make have enormous consequences for the emotional and mental health of students. Flexibility on test-taking needs to be instituted to reduce stress, reorient the focus on learning and promote the general well-being of students.

It would be hugely beneficial to have two or more test periods where students from any section can choose when to take their tests. A parallel idea would be to have a span of days in which papers can be turned in. Having, for example, the option to take a test on the Monday of a week or the Friday before could make a large difference. Even the choice between a Monday and a Wednesday can be crucial if a student has a test Monday or a paper due Wednesday.

Technology was supposed to make education drastically change. Many pundits believed creative destruction would cause a massive reduction in the bloated ranks of teachers, administrators and post-grads. That tipping point has not yet come; however, we can use technology to make it easier to turn in papers whenever and from wherever using the Internet. Test-taking should not be immune to the subversive power of the Internet. Imagine taking tests in testing centers on Grounds that are fully digital. Professors would give you a window of a couple days in which to take the test and a student would simply go into the center, log on and leave after finishing, all at whichever time he prefers.

The effect on the well-being of students would be drastic. Stress amplifies when students have multiple tests in one day or multiple papers or tests in a short span of time. Furthermore, student flexibility would improve the quality of work and of student learning. If education really isn’t a zero-sum game, and the goal is for everyone to succeed, then flexibility in exchange for better learning is a no-brainer. The feeling of pressure for time before multiple tests forces students to choose what to study and what to sacrifice. That isn’t the spirit of learning. Even if education is a rat-race, should something as arbitrary as class selection and the random choices of professors have major effects on the grades that students receive, when, in a vacuum, they would have scored differently?

Here at the University, we pride ourselves on our tradition. Indeed, many who read this article might dismiss concerns about the stress of college work. To those people we must respond as follows: Given the relative ease of instituting these policies which would very easily reduce stress, what is the point of maintaining our current stressful structure for test-taking?

Others might raise the issue of cheating as a concern associated with offering multiple tests. However, cheating would be a minimal problem because many professors already make different tests for different sections, so it would be the same amount of work to have two or three different tests for all the sections.

Are we teaching students that, when they get to the real world, things are set in stone and that often the best work is less important than work that meets arbitrary deadlines? The efficacy and morality of ingraining that kind of lesson in students is ambiguous at best, and although many occupations have similar processes, it is obvious that it is not optimal for society or the individual.

In short, test dates and paper dates are arbitrary decisions made by professors, and their arbitrary decisions should not have lasting impacts on the grades and health of students. The overlap and coincidence of dates can be harmful to students academically and mentally, and as a result, students need flexibility in when they can take tests, within a few days. This wouldn’t be that hard to accomplish but would make a huge difference.

Sawan Patel is an Opinion columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at s.patel@cavalierdaily.com.

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