Putting group examinations to the test

Ali Peltz, Staff Writer

To test or not to test?  That is the question.  Sadly, “not to test,” is not really an option, but what about group tests?

Some teachers use group tests as an alternative to traditional exams, often due to time constraints or because a subject matter is particularly difficult.

In most cases, it would not be beneficial to students if they were always allowed to work in groups during exams.

One student or a few strong students would end up doing all of the work.  Group tests would allow lazy students to slack off and get higher grades than they deserve.

There are some situations where a group test could be beneficial.

In an ideal situation, every student would prepare for the test and groups would divide the work evenly.

But what if there were a few kids who provide nothing to the team?  This would be unfair to the people who actually prepped for the exam.

If a teacher announces that an exam will be a group test in advance, it is possible that students would not bother studying thinking that someone else in the class will be prepared.

Then, on testing day, no one is ready to pass the exam.

“If the work is shared equally and everyone contributes, it would be beneficial,” said foreign language teacher Cherie Delio.  “But if one person ends up doing all the work, it is not fair.”

Overall, there is no way to guarantee that all group members will be ready for the test.  There will always be one person who gets a higher grade than they deserve.

In some very difficult courses, a teacher may surprise the students by telling them the day of the exam that they can work as a class.

This may be because the teacher knows that the test is exceptionally difficult and wants everyone to do well by collaborating with his or her classmates.

“Group tests are only fair if the whole class is struggling or if it is a very difficult unit,” said senior Summer Jiries.

The benefits of group testing differ among the various departments.

In a math class, a partner test with someone at your level could be helpful because the two can work together to figure out the answers and, in the process, learn from one another rather than completely give up on questions that stump them.

Yet a group test in this situation would likely leave the top kids in the class doing all of the work and all of the hard problems, allowing the lower students not to bother with learning the skills in the first place.

In the social studies department, a group test would end up with one kid memorizing all of the relevant textbook chapter providing all of the answers.

The rest of the class would not bother even doing their reading on the unit.  It would not be beneficial to the students because it gives students the opportunity to avoid work and not have to learn as much in order to succeed.

Despite the fact that group tests can sometimes be effective, they are generally unfair because students do not accurately learn the entirety of the material.