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How to Really Pass Standardized Tests

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Growing up in the Massachusetts Public Schools, you take MCAS, you take it from 3rd grade up until your sophomore year in high school. Throughout this time, teachers are told to groom their students to pass the MCAS. We learned how to answer multiple choice, that if you don’t know the answer, just guess. We learned to write a five paragraph essay and to always have three pieces of evidence, this is what we are taught for a significant amount of time during our schooling.

The first time I realized the MCAS way was not, in fact, always correct, was my freshman year of high school when I, for the first time, failed an essay. I thought it was unfair, I thought it wasn’t right that I fail an essay when I had written exactly as I had been taught my whole life. In high school, I essentially had to start over and relearn how to write in a way that would be acceptable to my teachers. However, the MCAS format has to stick with you until 10th grade, we still have to pass.

After sophomore year, the new focus was passing SAT’s and ACT’s and the AP tests, we are then told to throw everything we have learned about writing and test taking and throw it out the window, because we were facing a completely different beast. The SAT does not deduct points for not answering the question, only if you answer incorrectly, so we are told to not just wildly guess on the SAT multiple choice. However, the AP test does deduct if you skip the question, so you should always guess. The essays are no longer five paragraphs, that format is thrown out the window. Suddenly, you have passed the MCAS, so now the most important thing is passing the next standardized test.

This is frustrating for a number of reasons. We are told we go to school to learn, to expand our knowledge and further our education, but since elementary school it has felt that I am just going to school to learn how to pass tests. This in no way disregards or undermines the appreciation I have for teachers and the opportunities I am given because of school, I recognize these things, it is no one persons fault that this is the way we learn. I have been fortunate to have incredible teachers that care deeply about me and my education. It is the system as a whole, it has failed us. When I graduate I will not know how to do taxes, or buy a house, or how to take a loan out on something, or how to cook. Colleges look for insane and competitive SAT and ACT scores, so we are taught how to get good scores. The state of Massachusetts requires every student to pass the MCAS to graduate, so we learn how to pass that. To get college credit for an AP course we have to pass the test. So many tests and none of them represent who I am as a student, or how hard I have worked in school.

I, just like everyone else I know, want to go to a good college and get a good job. We all know what it takes to get there. But what comes after that? All of these obstacles life throws at us, to which I am not prepared to resolve because I was not taught how. Some kids won’t go to college, and then they are left with a basic, at best, understanding of how to deal with real world issues. We as a school community all need to do better at recognizing what is essential and useful, and what is temporary and potentially beneficial.

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How to Really Pass Standardized Tests