Point: Should teachers assign tests after the winter break?

Aaron Gindi and David Han

As the holiday season quickly approaches, students are faced with a plethora of exams.  Many teachers give their tests at this time before the break to make sure that students do not forget their subject matter. But because so many teachers do this, their well-intentioned acts turn into a great burden, as students scrounge to study for all the exams.

Although many individuals may want to enjoy their vacation without an overwhelming amount of work, many others find that they are more productive when they can study under less pressure and with more time. Because they have more time, students will likely score higher on the exam than they would if they had taken the test before break.

School is about learning, not about cramming.  If the “big test” is the Tuesday or Wednesday after break, students would have the entire break to study instead of cramming for a test the next day. The problem with cramming is that the information is stored in the memory only temporarily. As a result, students likely forget the crammed material after the test.

“Looking back now, I think the most stressful times of every school year have always been the weeks before breaks,” said senior Crystal Ren. “I had unit tests in every class, usually alongside other major deadlines. Having some of the tests after the break would help stagger the stress and allow people to spend more time on each subject and on the assignments. It provides a nice mental reassurance.”

School is not only about learning the material, but also about enjoying it—something that pre-vacation testing hinders. If students are not cramming for exams but instead studying the material gradually over vacation, the learning process is extended, leading to better performance on midterms, finals, and regents.

Experts agree that taking tests after break is beneficial.  According to Harvard Magazine, a psychological phenomenon known as the ‘Spacing Effect’ states that humans have a better ability to retain information if there is a space between the time that the information is learned and the time that they are tested on it.

According to Dr. Frank N. Dempster, a professor at the University of Nevada’s department of educational psychology, “spaced repetitions require the student to engage in active, conscious processing, whereas a massed repetition or a single presentation tends to evoke shallow, effortless processing.”

In layman’s terms, this means that if students are allowed to study over break, rather than forced to cram a few days before break, then they can truly understand the information better.

“Papers and other projects should be due following the break,” said senior Jacob Bloch. “This way, students who want to work on them over the break get to have that opportunity, and students who don’t want this can finish them in advance anyway.”

Our lives are already stressful, and building up exams adds to the high levels of external pressures.  The Friday before break can begin to feel like judgment day: a day after which everything is irrelevant. And that is a terrible way to look forward to a vacation. If students are under enormous amounts of pressure, they will most likely be sleep deprived and anxious on test day, and thus may receive a lower score than they deserve.  However, if the tests are after break, then students have the opportunity to study the right way, and hopefully succeed.

“Sometimes I feel overwhelmed with the amount of work I’m given before break,” said senior Wyn Stopford. “I think teachers should assign tests after break so that students aren’t full to the brim with pressure.”

As we prepare to enter this tumultuous test-taking time, we hope that you could all stay trained on the light at the end of the tunnel, and know that afterwards there is a two-week vacation waiting for us.