Students double down on test time
Education: Province extends length it takes to finish final exams
Wednesday, Jan 17, 2018 06:00 am
A Holy Trinity Academy honours student likes to study the situation and take advantage of any opportunity when playing guard for the Knights basketball team.
Matt Scharien did the same thing when he took advantage of new Alberta Education exam guidelines, taking five hours and 50 minutes to write his English 30-1 diploma exam last week.
“That was 10-minutes off the full time,” Scharien said. “I planned to take as much time as I could — just re-reading so it was exactly how I wanted it. I wanted to write a quality essay.
“I took way more time than I usually do, and it really helped.”
In previous year’s Scharien would have had three hours to write the exam. Students needing extra time had to qualify beforehand by demonstrating need, such as reading, anxiety or other concerns.
Now, all high school students will have extra time to write their diploma exams this month.
Alberta Education announced in September it was doubling the amount of time students would have for exams — a two-hour exam is now four for example to ensure their knowledge is shown, not their speed.
“Our government is committed to ensuring that our education system continues to give students the tools that they need to succeed both inside and outside the classroom,” Alberta Education Minister David Eggen said in a prepared statement. “That is why we are working to ensure that students who need accommodations for exams are receiving it.”
Scharien couldn’t believe students were able to get the exam done in three hours in previous years.
“I was barely done the first portion in the three hours,” he said. “There were a few kids who took more than five hours, but I was the last one.
“This takes a lot of stress off everyone so that everyone can write their best essay, which I think is great.”
HTA principal Carmen Ostafichuk supports the extended time, despite having some extra supervision duties.
She said only three of the approximately 30 students she supervised during an exam last week had left at the three-hour mark, the previous deadline.
“I thought the kids used their time well,” she said. “I thought they showed diligence and perseverance — it’s hard to do something for five hours. The kids really attacked it... I always thought it was heartbreaking when a kid wasn’t quite finished and we had to say time’s up and take their paper away.”
She said the extended time allowed the students to present their best effort.
Foothills Composite High School principal Vince Hunter also supported the extension.
“It lowers the anxiety on the kids and puts them in a position where we can really test what they know, rather than putting more on their shoulders to complete something in a certain timeframe,” he said. “Having said that, we don’t encourage kids to write for six hours, but we encourage them to be thoughtful, work through the exam at a steady pace, but recognize there is more opportunity for more time if they need it... That whole anxiety piece is huge.”
He said there are naysayers who say in the real world they won’t get those extended opportunities.
“Even at work, people often ask for extensions when we have deadlines to ease the anxiety when things start to pile up on us. Some of these kids are writing four exams,” Hunter said.
Jack Morgan, a Grade 12 student at HTA, took close to five hours to write his Social Studies 30-1 exam.
“If it was three hours I definitely would have been more stressed,” said Morgan, who plans to attend university next year. “Six hours relieved some of that pressure... I wanted to take my time. These finals only come once in a lifetime, there are no second-chances.”
Scharien, who plans to study business next year at university, realizes the so-called real world of deadlines is coming faster than a runaway locomotive.
“They won’t give me that (the extension) in university,” he said. “I will definitely have to tighten up. This (the 2018 final exams) will help me get into those schools, but I will have to adjust once I get there.”