Battle of the Grades. The story of my life!

Nowadays, grades are all that matter for students. Haven’t heard in your class, will this topic be on the test? or how many questions does the exam have? The assessment is what students really care. But is it students’ fault? or is it the education system’s fault? god?

Sorry for disappointing you but, grades and tests are going to be present for a while. This is because resources are limited in education and not everyone has the financial funds to afford his/her education. That’s the reality. You have to compete with someone else to get a spot. From my experience, I can say that this kind of assessment is very stressful and put so much pressure on students. Let me tell you the story of my life: Tests everywhere! Just look at the picture below!

In order to be admitted to the civil engineer program in my previous university (Colombia), I had to take a standardized test during a whole day. What a nightmare! Then, based on my score, I had to compete against hundreds of students that also applied to the same program! If you are lucky, you are one of the 60 students admitted to the program. If not, as my case, you have to train yourself for a couple of months, pay for the exam again, and re-take it. Why? As many students out there, this was my only chance to study. I definitely could not afford a private university.

Why did I say that you have to train for those tests? You have to be seated for more than 8 hours in a chair. You have to be able to read and understand everything at once because you do not have time to re-read the problem or the questions. You are competing against the time. At the end, a lot of students have to fill out the bubbles without even have Hread the questions because there is no time! Sometimes, quantity does not mean quality!

Then, my first exam in grad school. What experience! I did not finish it and I failed the exam! Welcome to the grad school! The test was too long and this was my first time taking an exam in only 1hr and 15 minutes. I was used to have 2hr for an exam. I struggled so much reading it in a language that is not my native language. I had to read the questions many times to understand what I had to do or answer.  I could not think what I was doing I just tried to do as much as I could. I studied and prepared very well, I understood all the concepts (I am the TA for that course now) but at the end, grades are what matters and I did not get a good grade. So,

Why was the test useless to assess what I learned?

It is true that “grades promote a fear of failure”. For my second exam, I felt so much pressure of doing well because I did not want to failure again!

As professors, we really have to think what is the best way to assess students learning performance in terms how ready they would be prepared for the demands of this century workplace. All the disciplines are so different in nature! Even more, each student is different and the way how they learn is very diverse. The job is not easy at all.


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