More Time to Think

“You have three minutes left everyone!” my teacher exclaims. My eyes dart up to the clock and, to my disappointment, not much time is left to finish my test. I hurriedly flip the page to look at yet another set of problems that I have not even started.

I clench my pencil and stare down at my test, trying to hold back tears. My mind is racing. Instead of thinking about the problems, all I can think of is the low grade I will receive because I didn’t have enough time to finish. I will earn a poor grade, not because I didn’t study, not because I didn’t pay attention, and not because I didn’t try. I will do badly because I took the time to pay careful attention to details and to review my answers.

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When any type of assessment is administered, whether it be a quiz, test, or cumulative exam, the correct answers are the answers needed. It is simple; the more correct answers, the higher the grade. Yes, there can be various ways to find the correct answer, however that correct answer is key to a good grade. I am now in my twelfth year of school. Throughout this time, I have taken thousands of assessments. I have learned how to study the best for my learning style and my grades reflect my achievement.

I have also learned what methods are the best to work towards completing questions correctly during assessments: to go over my work to check for mistakes, to read the whole question to understand how to answer it the best, and to not rush through problems. Going over my work, reading the question and understanding the question require me to not rush. Rushing through a problem leads to “silly mistakes,” which are also known as mistakes that I would not have made if I had just spent a little more time on the smaller details. If anyone, including myself, cuts off their thought process then the answer usually is not correct. What is uniquely special about every student in the world, is that we each have a different thought process. If two people are answering the same question, they may both get the answer correct but one person may take a few minutes longer.

Does it really matter that one person took longer if they got the same correct answer as the other person? I can recall countless instances when I completed the same assessment as a friend, took more time to complete it then they did, and scored the same grade if not higher. There is no proof behind the statement that if I answer a question quickly it will be correct. That is why I have learned to take my time to find the correct answer and no test should impede me from doing so. Most commonly in 11th grade, students participate in taking the SAT and ACT exams. The scores from these exams are used for admission to colleges.

In other words, your SAT and ACT exam grades really do matter in determining what college you go to. In some cases, the standardized test scores can be overlooked but on an average these scores are a large part of the acceptance process. The SAT tests high school students on reading, writing and math. The ACT tests high school students on reading English, math and science. Over two million students take the SAT and ACT each year.

If you are taking these tests, you are aiming to try to do well on them. Different people have different goals for what scores they want to achieve.However, the general trend is that students want a good grades to show to colleges. As I mentioned earlier, there are well-known methods I use to improve my probability to get the correct answers on assessments. One would infer that I would use those proven ‘methods to success’ to try to do well on the most important exams of my high school career.

However, there is a characteristic of the testing environment that inhibits my ability to use those methods. There is a limited amount of time given to complete a certain number of questions. For example, on the SAT, there are 25 minutes given to write an essay in the writing section, 20 minutes given to complete 19 problems in the critical reading section and 20 minutes given to complete 16 questions in the math section. Each section contains more problem sets than what I noted. However, they follow the trend of having approximately one minute per problem.

This time limit forces most people to rush through each problem just to finish it and get to the next problem. Therefore, students cannot take the time to work through the problem and use the right thought process to come to the right answer. There is also not enough time to check your work which means that people will have to go with their best guess. If more time would allow people to do better, then why not give more time? Back in 2002, Howard Garner, who is a well-known Harvard University educator, shared what he thought regarding the timed aspect of the tests ; “Few tasks in life–and very few tasks in scholarship–actually depend on being able to read passages or solve math problems rapidly.

…Indeed, by eliminating the timed component, the College Board would signal that background knowledge, seriousness of purpose, and effort–not speed and glibness–are the essentials of good scholarship.” Howard Garner brings up two great points.

The first is that it doesn’t matter in life to solve problems quickly so the restricted timing of these tests do not serve a direct purpose. Also, he brings up the point that the College Board, which is the company that is “behind,” the SAT test, is not encouraging the right things. What’s important is if the test taker puts forth the effort to do well which means taking their time to give thoughtful answers. ACT inc and the College Board have been asked the question I have asked myself many times; why are the tests timed? Their reply is that students need to be tested under pressure to see how they will perform in pressured college exams. In college, there are tests and exams but none are as high stakes as the SAT or ACT tests. The SAT and ACT are supposed to “prepare,” us for the future of timed tests.

However, in college and after college, people are simply not tested under so much of a time constraint. It is more valued to produce a correct answer with a great deal of thought put into it. Forcing students to rush does not show the knowledge of the subjects. Instead, it shows the luck of how many correct answers a student can fill in by guessing when they have no more time left.These tests should take into account that everyone takes different amounts of time.

If some people need more time to get a good grade, then they should be given more time. If these tests are going to be important for your high school career, then they should be designed for success. A good score should mean people took the time to complete each problem fully. The stress of taking the SATs and ACTs would be lessened, if more time was given to complete each problem.