This I Believe

Julia - Chappaqua, New York
Entered on November 12, 2006
Age Group: Under 18

Time Should Not Matter

When I was in middle school, taking tests was a bigger deal for me than for most kids my age. I would begin the test and think everything was fine. As time went on, I would continue to see the students around me finishing and leaving the classroom. Soon enough, I was the only one in the classroom surrounded by empty desks. At that point, I could not react to the test questions. All I could feel was the teacher’s retina burning a hole in my direction. My hand would start to shake. I knew exactly what was going through her head as she would hover over me: “What is taking this student so long?” I felt overwhelmed and alone with no clue how to answer that question. Now, as a junior in high school, I have conjured a solid answer: “Why should it matter how long I take, as long as I get the answers correct?” I believe the time it takes a person to answer a question does not reflect how intelligent he or she is.

It took my whole middle school career to realize that I had nothing wrong with me. The only reason I spent longer than other students on tests and on worksheets was because my brain took a slower time to process the information I read. For example, if the average student reads ten pages in twenty minutes, it would probably take me thirty-five minutes to read the same ten pages. This is no reason to judge my abilities as a student. In fact, there are numerous students that zoom through tests and end up failing. I used to doubt my intelligence from the looks I would get for having to take extra time on tests. My self-esteem and confidence level hit an all-time low. Later I realized that the only one for whom my “time issue” should matter was me. No one else’s judgments or views should affect me, or get in the way of my efforts to succeed.

Along with realizing the opinions of my classmates about the amount of time I took should not matter, I started to think of my slow working pace as something positive. I have noticed that it forces me to read carefully and sometimes even read things over more than once. This enables the information from the text to seep in, and I am able to understand and analyze the text with ease. Others can sometimes misread the text or are misled by what they read, which results in careless answers.

An advantage of timed testing is that it promotes efficiency. But most students, if asked, would say they feel pressured and anxious while taking a timed test. They also agree that they would most likely do better on a test that was not timed because they would not be as stressed. There are only a small number of students in my school who share my specific time issue, but it is likely that there are hundreds if not thousands of students in schools across the country that take longer than the “normal” amount of time to process information. I am just one person, but I represent many voices. As a result of psychological testing, I am now guaranteed extended time on tests. I know others question my strength as a student because I get extended time, but if anything, it has made me stronger because I am determined to prove what I believe: the time I take does not reflect how intelligent I am.