By Iman Ahsan, Sarah Ali, Bella Cameron, Lauren O’Keefe, and Allison Vande Velde
After two years, timed exams will be returning to Williamsville East in June 2022. The last timed exam was in January 2020, shortly before the school was shut down due to the pandemic. In the two years of remote and hybrid learning, students were exempt from regents and final exams because of the pandemic. The return of the timed exams hints at the return to normalcy for everyone, but simultaneously, the return of the exams has been worrisome for some students.
Some students have never even taken a timed exam. In a recent survey given out, 5.6% students said they’ve never taken a timed exam, and 12% said they don’t even remember. Some students have little to no test-taking experience, which puts them at a disadvantage for the upcoming exams in June. However, 34.3% of the people who participated in the survey answered they feel mostly prepared for the exams. The majority of those participants who felt prepared were sophomores, simultaneously, the majority of the participants who have either never taken a timed test or don’t even remember when they last took an exam were also sophomores.
Junior Olivia Osterstrom said, “No not at all really, I feel like my studying habits have changed a lot since the pandemic especially since being a freshman. Like the work habits and everything has changed so much that I don’t think I’ll do well on the exams, and the time like having such a long time for it it’s going to be hard to focus for that amount of time.”
Junior Ava Sadkin said, “To be honest I don’t really feel prepared for exams this year because we haven’t taken a real test in the gym since freshman year and my teachers have only given tests that are 45 minutes which is not the standard three hours.”
Notably, 43.5% of the participants said they felt confident in their testing skills, and many of those felt somewhat to mostly confident were also sophomores. Sophomore Charles Smith said, It’s kinda challenging because as a sophomore I’ve never taken one before, so I don’t know what exactly to be looking out for or what to be doing.”
Despite the high percentage of participants feeling mostly prepared for the exams, 74.1% (80 out of 108) of the participants felt somewhat to extremely worried about taking a timed exam. Only 25.9% (28 out of 108) didn’t feel too worried about the timed exams. The stark contrast in the ratio between worried and non-worried participants about the upcoming exams reveals that the return of timed exams is worrisome for many students.
The worrisome factor of the exams could be correlated to the lack of experience with test-taking that’s shared by many students. When asked about whether the final exams will be harder for those with less test-taking experience, science teacher Mrs. Weitz said, “Absolutely, the experience of taking exams in seventh grade, eighth grade, ninth grade definitely gives a student an advantage because I feel it helps them be calmer. They know what to expect on the exam, they know the format, they know where they’re taking the exam. So, it helps them in regards to the anxiety of a test. So yes, definitely feel like there is a disadvantage after two years of not taking regents exams.”
Moreover, the worrisome factor can also be traced back to how the pandemic has shaped students’ studying habits. 57.4% of the participants said that the pandemic has worsened their studying habits while a small percentage of 14.8% said their studying habits improved. With remote learning last year in 2021, many students were given take-home tests where they were allowed to use their notes. When the majority of tests given last year were open-note, studying is less important because students can rely on their notes to find the answer, which means that they’re not necessarily fully understanding the course content.
When asked about the pandemic’s impact on studying habits, Freshman Sophie Walker said, “They’ve definitely changed. I feel like I don’t know how to study anymore like then you get into how teachers really prepared us to study and I feel like that’s a whole other topic. I definitely think I’ve procrastinated a lot. I don’t really study as much as I used to, but maybe not doing that will get me to get back into that. But, I feel like I’ve definitely changed since freshman year, and the materials are harder, so figuring out how to study a subject is even harder.”
Furthermore, with the remote learning from last year, teachers had to alter their teaching methods in order to suit the hybrid and remote learning models. 48.1% of the participants said that their teacher’s teaching methods have somewhat changed in regards to reviewing material. Mrs. Weitz said, “Preparing students for the final exam is a little more difficult this year than in the past. I’m changing a little bit this year in that I am giving a little bit more time at the end of the year to practice some older exams, and in that way hopefully can give them more experience that they have been missing for the past couple of years.” However, not all teachers have changed their teaching methods. APUSH teacher Mr. Nogowski said that his teaching methods haven’t changed at all because he never does reviews in his class, and his students are expected to be studying on their own time so that he doesn’t have to spend the last two weeks reviewing them for the exam.
In regards to teachers preparing students for exams, Assistant Principal Mrs. Charleson-Smith said, “Yes, I think that the curriculum is structured in a way that whether or not we had exams scheduled they have always been working to help our students get the best education possible. The exams are just a culminating factor of all that they have taught the students. So yes, of course they have.”
The pandemic has taken away a lot in regards to test-taking and studying, which leaves many students feeling worried and unprepared for the exams in June.