Everytime I sit down to take a test, whether it is a small, minimal grade or a huge final, my body is full of nerves. A sick feeling in my stomach and a jittery feeling in my hands that just never seems to go away. Immediate chaos fills my bones, making me unable to pick up the pencil and even read the first question. My body is stagnant.
These uncontrollable limitations arise everytime it is time to “access my knowledge” by taking a test, even though I am a straight A student and in mostly advanced placement (AP) classes. While Maclay may find it beneficial to mandate a placement test to take AP classes, this process creates stress, which is unfair to students and is not an accurate reflection of the ability of the student who wants to challenge themselves. This year, Maclay has decided to bring back placement tests to get into some of Maclay’s AP classes. For one class in particular, AP Lang now requires a placement exam. Although this is a reasonable option, it is an unreliable course of action as most students are not good test takers, therefore it is a terrible reflection of a students academic performance.
One of the most recent classes that now requires a placement test is AP Lang. When I was a junior, I took AP Lang but was not required to take a placement exam. As I was a new student to an AP course, the thought of taking it was incredibly daunting and would have been even worse if I had to take a placement test. Moreover, for students who are new to taking AP classes, taking a placement test is inaccurate as most students have no idea of what to expect. This results in an unfair measure because students are unprepared and met with unfamiliar expectations of the test. The purpose of taking an AP class is to challenge oneself and to learn new material for the AP exam. Taking a placement before learning all that an AP test entails is contradicting what the whole course is supposed to teach students. When students are met with the unfamiliar territory of AP test questions, they will not perform to the best of their ability, which is an inaccurate measure of their knowledge and potential.
Many students have the desire to challenge themselves and enroll in these AP classes, however the fear and anxiety that come from test taking may draw them away from doing so. Taking an AP class gave me enough anxiety without taking a placement test to get in, and if I had to take a placement test, I would not have felt as confident and would have been less likely to take the class. Especially for students who struggle with confidence, taking an unknown test that they do not fully understand can be extremely detrimental to their future academic performance in the class. Making students take a test they know nothing about is a flawed method of measuring the amount of knowledge they possess because they are just a starting point. Placement exams do not look at the entire picture of a student’s ability and certainly do not determine a student’s academic intelligence. Overall, some students are just better test takers than others, and for the students who are not good at taking tests, they are not an unreliable indicator.
While some teachers argue that placement tests are beneficial to accurately determining the best class level for each student, these tests are an inaccurate representation of the students’ skills. Instead, teachers should use the students’ grades from prior courses to determine the students’ knowledge of the subject. In addition, prior grades also factor in the students’ work ethic. Each student’s success in a class is not based solely on their knowledge of the course, but how hard he or she can work to learn the new material. Using a two hour placement test over a student’s hard work and recommendations is a flawed system for deciding what students belong in certain classes.
As a person who gets terrible anxiety from taking tests, a placement test is not the best indicator of my success. While taking an AP exam comes with taking a big test at the end of the year, I have the entire year to prepare for it with the knowledge learned throughout the course. When students take a placement test, they have no idea what the questions will be like, and it will not reflect their best effort. Every student is different and some students might prefer to showcase their intelligence through a placement test, but other students definitely will not. Not counting out the students who are bad test takers can focusing on more of a holistic approach would drastically help students with their confidence and ability to showcase what they truly know.
After taking all of my AP classes, I felt extremely prepared for the final AP exam at the end of the year. Out of every AP class I have taken, I never once had to take a placement test to get into the class. Moreover, I finished almost every class with an A average, therefore placement tests are not a good reflection of a student’s ability to thrive in an AP class.