Should Tests be Timed?

After any big quiz or test, you’ll always hear people worrying about having not finished the questions and complaining about having to rush. This common stressor begs the question: should tests be timed?

It has been proved that the correlation between the speed that an assessment is finished and scores is nonexistent, or at most, very weak. A study done by Longstaff and Porter shows that there is no connection between the test results of 200 students and the speed at which they completed it. How fast an assessment is completed is not a measure of how much students understand the content, so time limits are not necessary to show how much students have learned.

How fast a student finishes an assessment doesn’t determine their understanding of the content; however, time limits are known to add anxiety and stress to students taking tests, and can even hurt their scores on assessments.
When 8th-grade red pod student, Alessandra Sedrak, was asked if she thinks her grades would be a more accurate representation of her understanding of content without time limits, she answered “Definitely.” Furthermore, when asked what happened after she didn’t finish an assessment, Alessandra said that she got no credit for the questions she didn’t do. By forcing students to rush, just to meet a time limit, the current testing system in place at most schools doesn’t favor people who take a longer time to answer questions.

Lucas Gomes, another 8th-grade red pod student, agrees that “grades would be a more accurate representation of your understanding of the content if tests were untimed.” In addition, Ursus sent out a poll to 23 8th graders of all math levels, and almost 80 percent of them agreed that timed assessments cause an inaccurate representation of content understanding.

Another idea is that the anxiety of knowing there is a time limit causes some students to perform less optimally on assessments. 7th-grade green pod social studies teacher Mrs. Improglou says that for students with anxiety, knowing that an assessment is untimed can positively impact scores. Tests are the main stressor for many students in middle school, so it might be necessary to eliminate any additional pressures like time limits.

7th-grade purple pod math teacher Mrs. Sicbaldi says that for big tests, it might be better if they are untimed.

An important indicator that untimed assessments might be a necessary change to schools is the time limit removal on standardized tests. The Connecticut Smarter Balanced Assessments (SBA) do not have any time limits set, so it would make sense that school assessments don’t either.

Despite this reasoning, untimed assessments could hinder the flow of a classroom environment. Mrs. Improglou adds that students could have 10 or 20 extra minutes, but it would have to be managed outside of the class. She said that she would rather get a complete, quality project, even if a reasonable time extension may be necessary to display a full understanding of the content. Mrs. Sicbaldi also claims that to have the most accurate representation of student knowledge, teachers must be aware of the time that it takes and schedule the test accordingly.