Memorization required for assessments does not align with real-life demands

Olivia Sessums, Contributor

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It’s common for a student to groan whenever they hear the word “test” or “quiz.” A test is a source of pressure and stress. It means studying for hours to make sure you can get at least a passing grade or dumping plans you had with friends. It means useless study guides on top of all the work from other classes. Study guides that can’t even be used during the test. So what’s at the bottom of all this calamity? Memorization.

The emphasis on memorization is a trend that has been taking over high school academics for decades. Teachers and administrators will tell you it’s a useful skill for the real world, something you can apply at jobs and in everyday life. But is it?

In real life, people are often provided with resources when applying skills from high school. If you’re at a job, and your boss asks you to log information into a system or write a report using statistics, does it sound plausible for him or her to tell you to memorize the information? You can’t use the hard copy document, and you’re not allowed to use the sheets that contain the data? Of course not. You would be allowed to use the data as a resource for your work so you can be as accurate as possible. Raw rehearsal is said to be the worst type of memorization, yet the most popular.

There will always be those who argue that memorization is still useful. Having that information in the back of your head is helpful and quicker than searching an answer or using a calculator. And while this can be true, is it really worth the mental health of the student? What are a few extra seconds of googling worth compared to hours of studying? Times have changed, and there’s no need to test the mental ability of students through their ability to remember things they’ll forget within the year.

Instead of strict memorization, students should have the option of open-note test taking. Open-note tests allow students to use papers and notes taken from a class as tools while taking an exam. Having open notes means the student does not have to spend the night before cramming for the test and can instead use the information around them. It’s far more realistic than memorization and can promote organized note-taking skills. Every test that I’ve taken that has been open-note has meant less stress the night before, which allows me to get a better night of sleep, and perform better on the test.

So what’s holding teachers back from administering open-note tests? The idea that memorization is healthier and more convenient than open note is old-fashioned and out-of-date. If changed, it would be a lot more relief to a student’s already heavy workload and a step in the right direction for modern American education.