Why are examinations timed

@SavoirFaire You are right about my generalization being very wide. I agree, it is sometimes a mistake to make such a broad generalization.

However, I will question the usefulness of most tests. I’m sure you have good reasons to ask your students to memorize, or even take some tests. However, I am skeptical that the results of those tests are even closely correlated with any measure of success either within or outside the field later in life.

Tests are used for very short term goals—mostly so people can grade. Sometimes teachers use them to make mid-course corrections, or to get feedback about what students are learning. However, I have no idea what real learning is. You point out that memorization can be important at times. Then you use the example of some emergency situation and a pilot making calculations. I wonder what happens if the pilot misremembers things and gets the math facts wrong. Perhaps taking the time to use a calculator would have allowed a better result.

Knowledge is a slippery thing. Evaluating another person’s knowledge is more art than science. I’m not prepared to give in on my blanket denunciation of testing. This is actually something I’ve thought about for years. I don’t approve of the standard education way of evaluating students. In particular, I don’t approve of tests. I think few of them are valid. They exist because they are socially useful, not because they mean much. The real test is what can a person do when faced with a problem.

But I know that you, @SavoirFaire, know how you use your tests (and I don’t) and so you have convinced yourself they are useful. I can’t say. You have your work and your job and people you must satisfy, so I don’t blame you for using tests. People generally believe in them. You’re on safe ground. Whether your results mean anything in the long run, I don’t know, and you don’t know, and we will never know, because people never do this kind of follow-up.