OPINION: Exams need to test knowledge, not speed or pacing

There have always been two variables to solving a test: knowledge and time. The need to know the material for a test is a given, but is a forced time constraint always a must? Many kids work at their own pace, and harsh timing might stunt their academic progress.

Timed tests are the cause of much stress and anxiety among students. If a 75 problem test has to be completed within 45 minutes, such as the English section of the ACT, then the student has an average of less than a minute per problem. This promotes wild guessing and passage skimming, which can cause negligence in understanding the questions, the exact opposite of an exam’s intended purpose.

People who support timed tests such as the ACT and SAT might argue that the format of the test is fair since everyone is forced under the same time restraints. They might also argue that a speed at which a student finishes the test measures  a student’s  intelligence and preparedness for the real world.

But there is a problem with the logic above. In a high school scenario, people with learning disabilities may be affected harshly as they would need more time to gather their thoughts. This is anything but fair for those students who need the extra time as all standardized tests follow a strict time limit. Depending on the circumstances, some students may be allowed extra time, but they will still feel the pressure of the clock.

In the real world, people are not tested how fast they can do work but how much quality they can give. While there are deadlines, many jobs ranging from custodians to engineers to surgeons require better work rather than a faster time. If speed was emphasized, a custodian could just sloppily clean a school, an engineer could make many bugs in their code, or a surgeon could make a fatal mistake.

Most importantly, a timed examination does not test how much the student knows but how quickly he or she can solve the problems. This serves no purpose as students do not gain anything from these tests. Examinations are given so the student can learn what they need help with the most, but if the teachers are just testing how quickly a student can think, no improvements can be made.

Tests with an emphasis on time, such as the SAT and ACT, should not be administered for the reasons that they can cause stress and hinder slow test takers, and they really only test how fast a student can answer the problems.