Colleges should shift focus away from tests

As I’m sure everyone knows, it’s midterm season here at Tech, and I can’t be more frustrated. I’m in my 3rd year, and by this point, I feel like I should have a better handle on the testing rigor or at least the overall process. Each semester I’m taken aback by how fast midterms come up. I stress out over all the material that needs covering.

Here I am again, beginning the testing cycle: plan, procrastinate, pre-study, procrastinate, cram, repeat. This technique worked wonders in high school. It really seemed like secondary schooling was just a massive cram-fest. It was like passing tests was all that mattered, not actually learning the material to use for practical purposes.

So now that we hit college, and things should be different. Right? We should be learning tons of practical material, and showing our knowledge through ability and work? Nope. It seems that things aren’t really any different on a large scale.

As a whole, from my experience, students are still cramming for the sake of an A and not to learn the material. This testing system is all we know; we’ve been in the same old “lecture, memorize, regurgitate” cycle since primary school, and the beginning of college education starts pretty much the same way, so there’s no need to change tactics.

I’ve worked with a variety of employers, from charities to restaurants to small startups, and currently work for this paper, another online publication and a new menswear start up company. In the small time I’ve had working with all these groups, I’ve learned more applicable and important information and skills than in my 5 semesters at Tech. I’ve been lucky to have the opportunity to go out there and learn from people already in industry and throw down my knowledge in a visible and useful manner.

This shows up when I’m assigned projects and research assignments; I excel in a situation where I can put my brain to work and develop a product. Testing is a different story. The importance I’m putting on tests is decreasing because I see less and less usefulness for them (which admittedly means trouble for my GPA).

In school, for the most part, we just spit up knowledge on paper. There’s little or no proof students are actually learning. The concept of a “test” as the primary means of proving knowledge and ability is dated. Companies are looking for work experience and ability, not how many A’s are earned in a 4-year period. Colleges would be smart to switch things up and place a heavier emphasis on projects and mock-real-world scenarios, especially towards the back end of our college experience. As a Business and INTA student I know this is possible, and I’m sure this is wholly possible in engineering fields especially.

I firmly believe that if students are given more opportunities to put their brain to work, and see actual results, we’ll be more inclined to learn and more inclined to do better in school.