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Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Scantrons hurt education

Valerie Teegardin

There is more to life than choosing A, B, C or D.

Before you take another multiple-choice test, stop.

Put down the No. 2 pencil.

The world does not come with pre-made questions and one correct answer. Our tests shouldn’t either.

I was sitting in Langdon Hall during a lecture when I heard my professor say all of her exams would be multiple-choice.

“Heck Yes!” I rejoiced silently to myself, thinking that the testing gods had smiled down upon me.

It is no secret that most of us favor Scantron exams because of the minimal amount of studying they require. You automatically have a 25 percent chance of getting the correct answer whether you studied or not.

With the help of some flashcards I made the night before, I got a solid A on my first exam.

Whoop-dee-do, I had passed. But what did I actually learn? Nothing. I had learned absolutely nothing.

Like when a monotone professor suddenly stops droning on, I was jerked from my daydream as the reality hit me. Multiple choice exams are a slacker’s dream.

I’d be facing a big fat F if I had to take that exam again right here and now. The information we mercilessly cram into our craniums the night before just dissipates into thin air after we turn in our tests.scantron

Like the hands on a clock, all those memorized terms and dates will drift away with each passing minute.

Tick, tock. Gone.

Multiple-choice exams will continue to sabotage your education no matter how many you pass.

It’s time we embrace the essay.

Green books, the modern day testing titian, are the reason why I can still recall everything I learned from a previous social science class. Did those written exams take some time and thought? Well, yeah! I’m not paying thousands in tuition just because I like to see my bank account shrink on a wasted education and neither are you.

We are in college for a reason: to prepare ourselves for life beyond the manufactured questions and generic answers.

Essay exams make you think, internalize, and rationalize. You have to — gasp! — formulate your own response to the prompt and use your pencil to write actual words, not fill in bubbles.

Water is food. That is the stance I took on my biology exam last year. Had it been a multiple choice test, I would have failed and probably been sent back to the third grade. Instead, the testing titian provided me with the chance to prove that I knew my science.

I crafted indestructible, air-tight reasoning by pulling from class material and lectures. It was an answer woven upon a foundation of facts stronger than steel girders. If my essay were a building, even Godzilla wouldn’t be able to knock it down. I passed with a 100 percent.

Multiple choice exams may seem like the easy way out, but essay exams are beneficial because they make us think critically.


Valerie Teegardin can be reached at [email protected] or @vteegardin on Twitter.

Illustration by Liz Coffee.

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