BENNETT: Time limits unrealistic




From district assessments and performance tasks to AP exams and the SAT, in high school there is no escaping the claws of assessments with time constraints. These ticking time bombs test our mathematical reasoning, reading comprehension, writing ability, and a multitude of other facets of our educational curriculum.

To prepare students to take these exams, classes simulate the horrifying experience and provide tips to success that soon fly out the window when anxiety-ridden students are faced with the actual task. Such tips include not checking your math work, guessing on questions that take too long to answer, and even answering a text-based question without reading the text.

Essentially, in order to help students pass exams that are supposed to be designed to test our knowledge of the material, the classes gear their curriculum to aid students in cheating their way through them instead. In english, you learn how to rely on cliches to write an essay as fast as humanly possible, while math teaches you how to get an answer you hope is somewhere in the realm of correct.

The problem does not lie in the classes, but in the assessments themselves, and the way they are implemented. If I want a good score on the SAT, I need to learn how to scramble to choose which answer best analyzes the text I just barely skimmed over. The exams value speed over accuracy and quality, teaching students that it is better complete the job quickly than well.

While this might work as a lazy attempt to challenge students in a high school environment, it is entirely useless in preparing them for the real world. In the majority of fields, no one will care if you completed the job in an hour if the quality of the work is poor. Trying to complete tasks using a formula for guaranteed mediocrity is not valuable outside of the classroom environment.

And yet we continue to test it with every major exam, and continue to train for it each coming year. When will people begin to realize that it does not matter how quickly someone can analyze a passage, but rather how thoughtful that analysis is?

If you are trying to assess someone’s ability, does it really matter if they complete the task in one minute or five? If they accidentally plugged the wrong number into the calculator for math and had to restart, do they really need to be penalized?

The people who design these tests seem to confuse the word ‘speed’ with the word ‘skill’, as if being able to regurgitate facts quickly for your history exam means you know them significantly better than your slower counterparts.

Worst of all, any high schooler with college aspirations has no choice but to subject themselves to these exams and develop the useless skills, while those who fail stand to lose everything they have worked for, even if they are well-equipped for a work environment. With the everyday stresses we face on a regular basis, timed exams serve as another ordeal on a longer list.
I only hope my fellow students do not fall into the trap of valuing speed over quality, or they will be vastly unprepared for the real world.