Test before break

Chronicle Staff

By Saj Sri-Kumar

It’s happened to just about everyone: you’re taking a test, and you blank out on a question. The question sounds vaguely familiar, but it was from something you learned about such a long time ago and you can’t quite come up with the answer. This problem is exacerbated by the amount of time between when you learn the material and when you take a test. As it stands right now, students can have up to 143 days between learning material and being tested on it during first semester exams.

Despite the obvious difficulty students encounter from having such a long delay between learning and testing, Harvard-Westlake continues to keep semester exams after winter break. This system is begging to be fixed. We need to have exams before break.

Were we to have exams before break yet retain the same amount of school days before them, we would eliminate two full weeks between learning and testing—almost 10 percent of the total time.

Not only would moving exams before break help students by making the class material fresher in their minds, it would also allow the school to start and end the school year earlier. There could be more teaching days before Advanced Placement exams in May, helping teachers to better prepare students for those tests as well.

It would better allow students to relax over winter break, since we wouldn’t have to worry about anything school-related (with the exception of college applications, many of which are often due during the break).

One common concern about having exams before break is that the move may cause more stress for students in a season that is supposed to be cheerful. Well, as far as I can tell, it’s still pretty stressful right now even though we don’t have exams before the break. We have test after test leading up to the break, with every teacher wanting to give a test on a unit before we adjourn for two weeks. Will stress levels be incrementally higher if we were to be taking semester exams right now?

Probably, but that certainly would be more than compensated for the fact that we wouldn’t have to worry at all about studying over the break or the weeks following it. I don’t mean to say that this system is perfect. It would likely disturb the timing of the end-of-year of regular school events, such as musical concerts.

However, if we could move those events a few weeks earlier or if we pushed them to after winter break, it would be a small sacrifice compared to the benefit that we would gain from moving exams.

It’s no secret that life as a student at Harvard-Westlake is no walk in the park. We work hard to get the grades we want so that we can get in to the colleges we want to go to.

In an increasingly competitive college admission environment in a school that makes no secret of its goal to get students in to the top colleges and universities, the school should do what it can to help us out.