It’s just the weigh things are

Test scores are unfairly weighted


Junior Holland Forsythe works on a math test.

My three years at the school have taught me many things. I’ve learned to write essays in one night, get ready in five minutes and that the cafeteria red velvet cookies don’t taste any different from the rest of the flavors. More importantly though, I’ve learned that testing is a huge part of high school culture, and that we as students have to be obsessed with our test scores.

As a junior, I am constantly being told that this is the most important year of my life, and that this is the time to work hard so I’ll stand out to colleges. This makes tests all the more important because they account for a significant part of my grade, therefore heavily impacting my precious GPA.

For example, in my math class, tests and quizzes are weighted the same. Together they are both 60 percent of my grade. Not to mention, the quarter exam, which is a separate category that is weighted 20 percent. Altogether, that’s 80% of my grade depending on my testing abilities. This means doing poorly on one exam can bring my grade down by several points.

For a good portion of the first and second quarter I was happily coasting with a high average in math. However, after a few bad quizzes, my grade dropped so much that I had to spend the rest of the quarter working to get it back up.

It’s fair to say that most students don’t particularly enjoy taking tests, myself included. I’m also just not a very good test taker in general. This is not to say that I don’t occasionally do well on exams, but I perform much better on projects, long term essays, and activities where there’s more room for creativity and less of a time constraint. It’s also very difficult for me to sit still for an hour and a half class period and grind out a test. I find it stressful, and honestly, pretty boring.

My overall grade doesn’t reflect my true performance in my math class. Even if I’m working hard with my math tutor and getting 100% on all my homework, my few test scores’ impact on my grade makes it seem as though I’m doing badly in the class overall.

I understand that teachers need a way to gauge if we are understanding the content, that use traditional tests is a convenient means of doing so, but is this really an accurate portrayal if the tests are worth more than everything else?  Some students do better on tests than others just as some students do better on long term projects. Considering this, it seems as though grades would be more reflective of performance if everything was weighted equally.

Except this isn’t usually the case. My math tests are worth more than three fourths of my grade and my homework and classwork, only a mere 10 percent each. We all have bad testing days and it’s unfortunate that they are so heavily weighted.

When so much of my grade is based on testing, I have no other choice but to hyperfocus on exams. I want to get good grades and if my test scores are what dictate that, then of course I’m lamenting over them. It’s an endless cycle of depending on my test scores to keep my grade up.

If I get a low score on one test I’m forced to wait for the next test in order to improve my grade, because it’s specifically the testing category that’s holding me back.

However, my IB Environmental Systems and Societies class is an entirely different story. Everything is weighted the same and I feel so much less pressure when it comes time to take an exam. Differing amounts of points are paired with each assignment corresponding with its difficulty and length. My grade more clearly reflects my overall understanding and performance with this system. If I bomb one test, I still feel like there’s a chance for me to bring my grade up, because I know other assignments carry a lot of worth as well.

I find it very discouraging that one or two tests can make or break my grade in most classes. I take about three or four major tests a quarter but do about 10 times as many other assignments in other categories. However, those few tests are much more impactful.

If I’m going to spend the school year doing a multitude of different assignments, then all of those assignments should be taken into account for my grade and be weighted equally. While it is not impossible to come back from low test scores, it is much easier to do so when testing isn’t the majority of one’s grade.