Standardized Testing and the Rough and Tumble of the GRE
This past Monday I took a very important test, a test that has the potential to determine my future. I am of course referring to the Graduate Record Examinations, more commonly known as the GRE, aka the bane of existence if you are trying to get into grad school. This test is completely mind-numbing and more than a little bit terrible. Depending on if you take the general test or a specialized one, you have to prepare yourself to take a test that lasts at least four and a half hours but could be more. Even though the test itself is probably the worst thing I’ve ever done in my life, the build up to the test might actually be worse.
The GRE is completely nerve-wracking, especially if you do not think you have the skills to do well. Before I took it, I kept complaining that I don’t need to pay for an expensive test just to be told that I’m terrible at mathematics. Because of its difficulty level, some people will spend months preparing and studying for this test. GU alum Jamie Bible took the GRE at the end of last year and was willing to share what her experience was like. She said “I studied for about 3 months. I made over 800 illustrated and color-coded notecards just for vocab… I read a 200-page book word-for-word and took extensive notes on it. I took nine full-length practice tests (including the two PowerPrep tests, which are supposed to give you super accurate results. They did not)…” She went on to say that she was studying all the time, even studying the test format and which scores are supposedly the best.
I am not a fan of standardized tests. I do not think that they adequately display someone’s actual abilities, especially because quite a few people are not good test takers. Tests can easily bring out the anxiety in just about everyone. If you let it happen, you can completely psych yourself out and have at least one panic attack before you take the test. Bible told me that “The GRE was a really terrible time” for her and that she “started to have panic attacks leading up to the GRE. Towards the end, they were occurring on almost a daily basis and sometimes more than once a day.”
I can understand, and even appreciate, the point of standardized testing. Standardized tests are an unbiased way for judging a student’s learning and the teacher’s ability to teach the content well. I spoke with former education major Amber Wibbenmeyer about these tests and she told me that standardized tests “are created to measure knowledge through the way a brain processes a certain problem. The problem with this is that not every person solves problems the same way… standardized test measure on a way to solve a problem, and not everyone’s mind works the same way.”
Though tests such as the GRE are really great in theory, they do not properly indicate someone’s level of knowledge or abilities. I hope that standardized tests and similar methods of evaluating students and teachers continue to improve so that people are not judged on their test taking skills, but rather their knowledge and learning abilities. Miss Bible summed it up rather well by saying that she “was so concerned with an arbitrary number that I let it define me as a student, and as a person… there is no way a standardized test could accurately portray the type of student I am.”