Should teachers allow students to keep graded exams?

Leah Doubert and Lindsey Smith

“Why did I get a C on that test?,” you, and many of your peers, may sit up wondering one night. Moments like these are extremely frustrating and lead students to ask questions exactly like these when they finally check their grades on Aspen. Many people would agree that checking a grade may not even be helpful as it does not allow you to see what you actually got wrong.

Some teachers tend to give the same tests year after year, and they do not return tests for fear that their students will pass on exam questions to younger friends or siblings. Forbidding students to take their tests home can make teachers’ lives easier so that they do not have to come up with new questions every year. This is a valid and unavoidable concern for teachers and academic departments in the school.

Some subjects do not have an extensive pool of questions that can be used on tests, so creating new questions every year can be challenging for teachers. In this case, teachers may have no choice but to reuse old questions that were proven to be effective for the learning process.

“I think that whether or not teachers should give tests back depends on the availability of questions for that particular subject.  If there are lots of questions, teachers can make new tests every year and return the exams to the students,” said Biology teacher Mr. Chris Dardzinski.

When students receive exams from people who have already taken the class, they are at an advantage in contrast to their peers who don’t have access to the test questions in advance. The solution, at this point, seems simple. Simply don’t return tests to students and teachers and administration can avoid a host of problems with regards to academic dishonesty. Yet these pros must be weighed with their cons.

Students should, of course, be allowed to see their graded exams as often as necessary under the supervision of a teacher, but they shouldn’t be allowed to keep them, and they should only be returned after each and every student has completed the test.

“I think that teachers should return tests so students can see what they got wrong, but they should not give the tests back until there is no one left that needs to take the test because it would not be fair if they knew what was going to be on the test,” said freshman Peter Epp.

However, every teacher has a different method, and some do allow students to hang on to completed tests. If students are allowed to take their graded tests home, the teachers in question shouldn’t use identical tests for multiple years. Giving back tests has its advantages, though.

Not being able to thoroughly look over a graded exam can make studying for other important exams, like finals or midterms, difficult for students. This can be especially prevalent for underclassmen who have the least experience with higher level exam questions.

Moreover, students can be prevented from carefully analyzing which problems or types of problems they got wrong, a problem that will ultimately harm them in the future when they do not understand certain concepts that they have missed on previous exams. Due to the cumulative nature of learning in education, this can be a real problem. Every student should be given the chance to succeed to their fullest ability.

When exams are given back in class, students only have a few minutes to analyze the problems they got wrong.  As long as teachers do not use identical tests for two or more years in a row, no students would be granted an unfair advantage. Teachers should overall make sure they change the questions on their tests which will prevent any sort of cheating going on.

“I think that teachers should give back tests as long as they plan to have the test changed,” said senior Allison Khin.

Students who like to learn from their mistakes by looking at test questions often feel inconvenienced by the fact that they can’t look at their tests for more than a few minutes in class. This can prevent them from ultimately learning a concept that they may not have understood on the test, which can lead to the same mistake being made on midterms, finals, Regents, or any other test.

The middle ground of teachers going over the test with students can help prevent future grey areas in academics. Moreover, for the students who really do need to go over previous test to improve their understanding of  topic, who better than to look over a past exam with than the person who actually made it? The teachers at our school do an incredible job of making themselves available to students who need their help, so why not utilize these invaluable resources in a way that benefits students and hopefully does not cause unnecessary work for our students.

However, the solution to this problem is not simple, and there must be a compromise to ensure fair academic situations for future and present students.

If teachers stop recycling old questions and make sure to give tests back only when everyone has taken them, it may be possible to find a balance and solve this problem.