The Ideal Testing Environment By Samiksha Prasanna

This past Wednesday, Kilbourne Students took the Annual College Board PSAT/NMSQT...

This years testing, as many upperclassmen noticed, was set up differently from last years. The test was not mandatory for anyone, which was likely the reason we did not have a half day, and classes continued. Most of the students were split up between the Library and the Main Gym. Personally, I took the test in the gym

The week before, the email containing testing information was sent out, making its way into student inboxes around the school. Many students read the words, "Testing location: competition gym," and looked up with utter confusion written on their faces. More than actual reasoning, the disbelief was a reaction to what the gym was to become.

The competition gym was for the Homecoming Pep Rally, loud Volleyball games, dribbling basketballs, and everything loud and exciting about Kilbourne. That painted wolf mural, and the hanging scoreboard represented an environment that fostered school spirit. But that email would force us to imagine the room being used for something quite different: filled with rows of desks along the shiny floor, dim fluorescent lights. We could all imagine the feeling of dangerously sharpened pencils grinding against the soft pages of the test booklet, hoping your graphing calculator would survive another hour without being charged, and shivering at the mercy of the loud air conditioning.

Seriously... Why is the paper so soft?

While this level of panic may not have been experienced by everyone taking the test, testing environments often affects their focus and concentration during the test-- at least according to the students themselves. After the test was over, and even during the five-minute breaks, the murmur of complaining would rise.

"Oh my god, that buzzing sound coming from the ceiling is so annoying!" - Katie B.
"Can people stop going to the bathroom? The door keeps opening behind me!" -Misha S.
"I am so, so cold." -Kailey R.

I admit, the Kilbourne test administrators were not trying to set us up for failure, they would never do that. However the College Board itself has test rules and regulations on how students test. In fact there exists a one hundred and thirty six page coordinators manual for administering the PSAT/NMSQT. If you fancy it, by all means read the entire thing, but my favorite part of the entertaining read is the seating requirements...

See above: the monotonous, non-engaging, quiet, concentrated, prison like atmosphere is part of the rules...

But the PSAT isn't the only standardized test we take, and the results of other regulated assessment reflect student testing experiences. Last spring Juniors taking the AP exam for Language tested while construction was being done on the roof. That means constant hammering, and banging, over the heads of already stressed students trying to focus.

"They probably could have held off on the construction since it was such an important test." -Rachel R.
"I really hindered my ability to focus." -Lexi S.

While there is no concrete evidence that these disruptions affected test scores, the comfort of testing students should be a priority.

So as the trauma of taking the PSAT subsides, consider this Kilbourne: What is your ideal test taking environment?

For me, I like a room temperature room, with lights that aren't all fluorescent, and some sort of white noise in the background... But alas, that isn't always work out that way does it.