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How To Avoid Negative Effects Of Tests On Students

Some educators argue against using tests saying that students study for tests only at the end of the semester or when the school year is about to finish while not working throughout the course and once the test has finished, students forget all that had been learned. Others added that students become focused on passing tests rather than learning to improve their skills. All these arguments don’t justify eliminating tests at all because there are many reasons and much importance for testing.

Reasons for Testing

  • Giving the teacher valuable information about where the students are in their learning.
  • Affecting what the teacher will cover next.
  • Helping teachers to decide if their teaching has been effective and helps to highlight what needs to be reviewed.
  • Assessing teaching as well as learning.
  • Giving students a sense of accomplishment as well as information about what they know and what they need to review.
  • Motivating and giving students a sense of progress.
  • Highlighting areas for students to work on and tell them what has and hasn’t been effective in their learning.
  • Encouraging students to review material covered in the course.
  • Encouraging students to consolidate and extend their knowledge.
  • Tests are also a learning opportunity after they have been taken.
  • The feedback after a test can be invaluable in helping students to understand something they couldn’t do during the test. Thus, the test is a review in itself.

Making Testing More Productive

It is very important to bear in mind the negative aspects of the arguments mentioned and try to minimize the negative effects. We can do the following to make testing more productive.

  • Make the test a less intimidating experience by explaining to the students the purpose of the test and focus on the positive effects it will have.
  • Give the students plenty of notice and teach some revision classes beforehand.
  • Tell the students that you will take into account their work on the course as well as the test result.
  • When you hand out the results, go through the answers fairly quickly, highlight any specific areas of difficulty and give the students their results on slips of paper.
  • Emphasize that a student should compare their results with their own previous scores, not with others in the class. 

Learning From Tests

Finally, it is very important to remember that tests also give teachers valuable information on how to improve the process of evaluation.

Ask students some questions to evaluate the test. e.g.

  • “Were the instructions clear?” “
  • Do the test items cover what that been taught?
  • “Did I manage to create a non-threatening atmosphere?”

These questions and others may be added to help the teacher to avoid any pitfalls next time.

Using Alternatives to Testing

There are other alternatives that can be used instead of or alongside tests.

Continuous Assessment

Teachers give grades for a number of assignments over a period of time. A final grade is decided on a combination of assignments.


A student collects a number of assignments and projects and presents them in a file. The file is then used as a basis for evaluation.


The students evaluate themselves. The criteria must be carefully decided upon beforehand.

Classroom Work Assessment

The teacher gives an assessment of the learner for work done throughout the course including classroom contributions.

In Short

Tests should not be the only criteria for assessment, but they are one of many tools that we can use. I feel that choosing a combination of methods of assessment is the fairest and most logical approach.

But tests still have an important function for both students and teachers. By trying to limit the negative effects of tests we can try to ensure that they are as effective as possible. One important thing to be done to limit the negative effects of tests is writing effective test items.


I’ve Launched A Guide On Testing.

 For over 20 years, I’ve developed, contributed to creating and administered school tests. And in that time, I’ve noticed one thing popping up again and again: As a teacher and a test builder, it’s really hard to write effective test items.

With this challenge in mind, I’m really excited to announce the launch of “Writing Effective Test Questions: The Definitive Guide”

What is This Guide?

Designed with how to create effective test items in mind, this definitive guide gives the teachers step-by-step instructions they need to go deeper, further and faster toward making a success in preparing effective classroom exams with ease and comfort.

With the help of valuable guidelines included in this guide, teachers will be able to avoid any pitfalls in the testing of their students.

This guide is a valuable resource for any teacher interested in constructing test items that can capture effectively what a student knows.

It is the comprehensive guide that I personally wish someone would have shared with me when I first started to make classroom tests for my students.

Get This Guide Now

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