Pop quizzes block students from success

By Alyssa Gautieri

We’ve all experienced the moment of panic when a professor told your class to clear your desks. We regretted that we only skimmed the reading last night or that we forgot to read at all. Sometimes, even when we read the assignment completely, suddenly, every single word of the chapter has escaped our memories. This fear-stricken moment was probably followed by a pop quiz, a method of evaluation that is not an effective way to test student ability.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “fair” as “treating people in a way that does not favor some over others.” Following this definition, I would have to say that pop quizzes can be considered fair because they provide each student with an equal advantage in the sense that no student was warned prior to the quiz.

But ultimately, is a pop quiz more effective than an announced quiz? While pop quizzes may be considered fair because they test your ability to recall information from readings or previous lectures, pop quizzes are not a good indicator of a student’s full potential.

For some students with a strong short-term memory, pop quizzes on the previous night’s reading may be beneficial for their grade, but for students who normally rely heavily on studying before a quiz, pop quizzes may tend to lower their overall grade. For some students, preparing for a quiz means hours of studying — stripping students of the opportunity to put forth the effort and work in pop quizzes that they normally would before a quiz seems ineffective.

Students deserve the right to plan and prepare their schedules in advance. Especially at the College, students do not strive for mediocrity on quizzes. I’ve known many students who willingly put forth many hours of studying for quizzes. 

Pop quizzes are not a good measure of a student’s potential because the questions are typically based on one’s ability to remember specifics from the readings, in order to test whether or not they read the material. However, just because a student has read the assignment does not mean they have memorized all specific details that the professor might ask on a pop quiz.

Like professors, students have lives outside of the classroom and they should not be expected to be 100 percent prepared every single day. Some students may do better on a pop quiz one day but the next, not do as well, depending on their personal lives and work load of that week. Everyone has hard nights or falls behind from time to time, meaning pop quizzes at the wrong time can punish a student who is having one bad day out of a lot of untested, good days.

Knowing about a quiz for a few weeks, or even a few days, gives students no excuse for not being able to study that information, whereas students who are spontaneously tested on a reading assignment from the night before may not have had the time to read due to a valid excuse.

In addition, knowing a pop quiz may or may not be coming can give students anxiety. According to a study conducted by Missouri Western State University’s Department of Psychology, “without fair warning (of a pop quiz), participants will have higher anxiety levels, which can interfere with their performance and lead to lower quiz grades.”

When students are worried about the possibility of a pop quiz, they are typically less focused on the current lecture the professor is giving. Students tend to spend the majority of the period distracted and obsessing over the idea of having a surprise quiz at the end of class rather than actually paying attention.

While pop quizzes may technically be “fair,” they are not an efficient way to test students knowledge and ability to learn. They do not give students the opportunity to study or prepare. They test basic knowledge rather than applied knowledge. They may not produce consistent grades depending on the time of the examination and they can cause students unnecessary anxiety.

Students share opinions around campus

Are pop quizzes fair?

Chloe Yelle, sophomore urban education and English double major.
Chloe Yelle, sophomore urban education and English double major.

“The student in me says no… But as a future teacher… I say yes… But currently, as a student, I would say no, overall.”

Danielle Silvia, freshman communication studies major
Danielle Silvia, freshman communication studies major.

“Yes… As college students, we are excepted to keep up with our assignments.”