Tag: examinations

A Test by any other Name

Assessments. I’m not sure we had these back when I was a kid. I mean, we had them but everyone called them tests.

Don’t get me wrong, I feel the new name (in use in the education system for a couple decades now) more accurately reflects the purpose of these “tests.” As an English major, concise and clear language appeals to me.

However, I suspect that was NOT the reasoning behind the change.

There’s this black hole called test anxiety. Therefore, if we don’t mention tests, the anxiety will be alleviated.

I’ve seen this hungry beast (test anxiety) in action. People forget everything they studied. Draw a blank after reading every question. Nervous fingers click the pen: out, in, out, in, out. Fingernails, erasers, collars become fodder for repetitive chewing.

It’s crazy. Once you finish your education, how often do you face tests? Okay, that will depend on your profession, but those with test phobias aren’t likely to even go there.

As an educator, assessments can be a valuable tool. They assess (thus the name) what a student knows before a unit of study and what they learned after one. Provided they don’t suffer from the dread of examinations.

Because, let’s face it, the name change isn’t fooling teenagers. Maybe the younger kids can be trained away from test anxiety with an array of assessments levied rather than sitting for tests.

Many secondary schools have begun basing grades exclusively on assessment scores. While I understand the mentality behind this ( they shouldn’t pass Algebra if they haven’t learned 60 percent of the objectives), it invites teenagers to fail.

Teenagers are generally opportunists, seeking the easiest way to get where they’re going. Why do you think all the video games have cheat guides and cheat codes? This isn’t a claim that teenagers cheat on test—I mean assessments—but that they will shirk the assignments leading to the assessment because “they don’t count toward the grade.”

Yes, I’ve actually had students tell me they weren’t doing the work I assigned because it wasn’t going to be graded.


“But it prepares you for the assessment, which is your grade.” I’m using a reasonable tone of voice as I say this.

Shrugs. “I know how to do it.”

“Then why not do it. Practice makes perfect. It can only help.”

Sometimes an argument ensues. Other times, the response is another shrug.

As a substitute teacher, what can I do?

“The expectation is that you’ll spend class time working on this.” Yes, I admit, the teacher voice is starting to leak out by this point.
Because the majority of teenagers don’t care about an absent teacher’s expectations. Even if they know you’re going to let the teacher know that they didn’t work on the assignment.

Nine chances out of ten, the student wouldn’t be any more productive for the regular teacher.

Which makes me wonder: what are they learning about following guidelines? Will they have a better work ethic for an employer since they’re working for a paycheck?

Is there a better way to encourage students to apply themselves to the assigned tasks? Many aren’t even concerned about their grades.

All of this came to mind today while a classroom full of freshmen took an assessment in their English/language arts class.
What are your thoughts on tests versus assessments? What should “count” toward high school grades? (Maybe we should do away with them altogether, but then colleges will have to change their admission standards.) What’s your brilliant idea for encouraging students to learn?

CLEP Exam Pros & Cons

Since it’s nearing the end of the year and I’m more interested in spending time with family than coming up with new content – sorry- I’m going to run some of my older blog posts again. This post netted me more views than anything I’ve ever put on my page. Why?

If you think college tuition is outrageous ($1,000 for one class!), you’ll probably be interested to learn about CLEP Examinations. Many colleges and universities (2900 according to collegeboard.org) accept these exams as credit in place of many basic knowledge or entry level classes.

What is CLEP?

 

CLEP is an acronym for College Level Examination Program. It’s a way to earn college credit by taking an examination to prove your proficiency in a subject. The length and format of the exams differ depending on the subject. The information I have lists 33 different tests ranging from Biology to Business and Calculus to Composition.

 

In my case, I’m taking the “History of the United States 1: Early Colonization to 1877” exam on August 23. If I pass the test, I will earn three credits and get to skip the 100 level history class required for my degree.

 

Where can I learn about CLEP?

 

To learn the basics about CLEP, visit www.collegeboard.org. They offer study guides and listings for testing centers. I downloaded an iBook with a sample test and the list of topics covered on my test for $5.99.

 

Before you invest in the test, you’ll want to check in with your college advisor to be sure your college is one of the 2900 that accepts these examinations for credit. Even though taking tests is loads of fun, it isn’t free, so you won’t want to waste the money if it won’t shorten your college course list.

 

Pros

 

The major benefit to taking a CLEP exam is the money I will save. To take the exam, I will pay $80 for the test and $15 to the testing center (since I test at University of Phoenix and am not a student there, I have to pay a testing fee). To get the same credit by taking the college course, I would spend $966 for the class and then another $80 to $120 for the textbook. That’s savings of nearly $950!

 

It also means one less class I have to take. This translates into finishing up my degree requirements in less time.

 

According to The College Board, the test I’m taking is a relatively easy one (a 2, on a scale of 1 to 5, where a 5 is hard and 1 is easy). Their study sites say I should be ready for the test with a week of study. So one week of study versus eight weeks? I’d say that’s another big benefit.

 

Cons

 

The major drawback for CLEP is that preparing for the test is an independent endeavor. I won’t have an instructor to seek guidance from. There are no interactive discussions to help me understand difficult concepts. In fact, I don’t even have a textbook to study.

 

I am using www.ushistory.org for my study sessions. This website has a topical list of articles written by expert historians. I also have my sample test and there are online sample tests, as well. I’m hoping that my skills for reading and retaining information have been honed sufficiently from the past two years of online classes, so that I will be able to absorb the information needed before the test.

 

If you don’t pass the test, you can retake it in six months and still save over $800 (if your college credits cost the same as mine).

 

As far as I can see, the pros are heavily outweighing the cons on this list. I’m glad I made the decision to pursue credit through the CLEP. If you’ve taken a CLEP exam, I’d love to have you weigh in on the subject below. Was it worth the money and time savings? Do you have any tips to share with future exam takers?