When Does Testing Become Counter Productive?

Testing for the sake of testing marginalizes many students that do not perform well under pressure. And if that is the case, should those students pay the price because we do not teach them how do overcome a very real situation that they live with, along with the strategies that can be used to help them address and overcome such challenges?

It’s is many years since I was in school, however in many respects I remember it as if we yesterday. And this is because I was one of those kids that froze under the pressure of an exam or test … particularly when there was a time constraint in which I had to complete that exam.

In later life I’ve learned how to tell with that sort of situation. Breathing exercises to relax … focusing on the results and benefits that I wanted to achieve, also worked. However I was never taught any of those preparation techniques as a student at school.

I’ve encountered similar situations in later life also as a musician when expected to perform in front of other people. Many professional musicians are just the same having to overcome ‘stage fright’ despite being extremely proficient in their craft. However despite these challenges being relatively common knowledge … we still insist on testing kids for what they have learned and remembered, expecting (or should I say ‘hoping’) that they can demonstrate their true abilities.


In many respects, testing kids is also a way of testing how well a teacher has performed. So when the student fails, it reflects poorly on the teacher and they can be accused of failing to do the job they were expected to. And so the process fails at yet another level.

Preparing for a test or examination is something all students need to be taught and learn as part of the Curriculum so they can understand to recognize the symptoms and prepare more adequately in advance. However the majority of students seldom have this opportunity to learn and become familiar with these Life Skills.

There are a variety of ways that an individual or student can be tested on a subject or topic they’ve learned and studied, But it certainly does not always have to involve sitting in a classroom with an exam paper in front of them.

If schools insist on using examinations or testing as a means by which to assess student proficiency, they really should be aware of the inherent risks, and either provide the students with a way to prepare and deal with the pressure … or find another way of conducting tests or examinations that will produce a much more reliable result.

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