By: Jaclyn Kotora, Editorial Staff (‘23)
From the view of high school students, the weeks of May 1-14 can be described as two things—stressful and draining. With AP tests being administered throughout the weeks, as well as the state-mandatory New Jersey Student Learning Assessments (NJSLA), students have been drowning in standardized testing. In addition, many juniors took the May SAT in the same week. Required standardized testing has recently been a controversial topic; regardless, those who decide when to administer the tests should take the mental health of the student participants into account, giving them the best opportunities to do well without the increased mental drain of back-to-back testing.
Even weeks leading up to the tests were filled with stress. When discussing exam preparation, junior Jessica Strickland described it as “in one word–a lot […] Before the exams, all of my AP classes had assigned nightly cumulative practice. It was just a lot of assignments and not much free time for me after school – even the weekends would be filled with hours of AP practice tests.”
When the week of testing came near, many students expressed it as severely draining. Fellow junior Raina Saini shared, “The back-to-back tests are definitely draining both mentally and physically since they require such intense focus for a prolonged period of time. Studying each night for a new test was both confusing and tiring.”
On top of the AP stress, there is the additional burden of the NJSLA that was administered to freshmen and juniors this year. Strickland continued, “the timing of the standardized testing this year was rather unfortunate – whoever thought to put them during APs? In one week, I had 3 AP tests and 2 standardized ones, one each morning, something that definitely needs to be fixed.”
An overwhelming amount of students shared similar sentiments. The 90-120 minute testing period each morning was not only tedious, but it also caused a confusing schedule for teachers, staff, testers, and non-testers alike. Alexandra Mazur explained, “it is another test and a mixed-up schedule that adds to general stress with the AP tests […] I know people who were taking AP science tests and now have to make up the state’s science tests because it was on the same day. Considering how early CollegeBoard puts out their schedules, it is ridiculous that they could not just set the state tests to a later week.”
In terms of fixing the issue, Saini suggests, “Obviously, this is out of the hands of our IHHS administration, but I would definitely recommend for them to change this for future years or just omit the state standardized testing altogether […] I would also recommend our school to allow students taking exams to only come into school for the exams that they have and not have this as an absence. It is unfair to have students sit for a test for 3 or more hours and expect them to return to class or vice versa.”
Even seniors who did not have to take the NJSLA or SAT this week faced several issues with the scheduling of their AP tests. A group of 7 seniors had two AP exams scheduled back to back on Wednesday, May 7th. The two exams were AP Spanish Language and AP Biology. AP Spanish was scheduled for the morning, and AP Biology was scheduled for the afternoon. The morning exam finished just before 12, which was the start time of the AP Biology exam. These 7 students were not able to eat lunch or take a break before heading into the next 3+ hour exam. These students felt frustrated and stressed during this experience. After, it was discovered that Ramapo students who had this situation were offered to take one of the exams on an alternate day. The cohort of students was frustrated that IHHS administration and guidance did not offer the same opportunity to them.
Despite all the recent stress, the teachers at Indian Hills have generally been understanding and supportive of students. Strickland expressed, “If there was ever an issue or assignment I felt like I would not be able to do in time, all of the teachers at Hills understood completely and were very flexible. I always felt comfortable reaching out to them.”
Considering everyone wishes students to do well on these tests, there should not be as much pressure on students’ mental energy by administering so many tests in such a small amount of time. Hopefully, in the future, the timing of the NJSLA will be more considerate of SAT and AP testing. Still, to have all the AP subject tests compressed within a small period of time is unfortunate since it forces students to compress a wide range of knowledge of various subjects into their brain at one time, and it is expected of them to do well on each 4-hour test with barely any break. To promote students’ success, something regarding these standardized tests needs to be remedied, whether it be scraping them altogether or tailoring them more toward students’ wellbeing — an adjustment must be made.