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The Myth of the Bad Test Taker

January 10, 2022

The “bad test taker” is a comforting myth. The myth says that in a situation where a student does poorly on a test, provided they have the practical skill-set needed to succeed and attend a school providing exactly what it is supposed to provide, then the kid is just “a bad test taker”. It sounds nice on the surface. It’s placated that parents and teachers, telling them that all the right things are being done. It tells them that there really isn’t anything that can be done to improve the situation. Their hands are cleaned of this responsibility. The kid just freezes up when they are put in front of a blank piece of paper.

However, this myth is just plastering over the real problems that are left unaddressed. It lets the people who have the power to do something about these issues feel like they have done all they could. On the other hand, leaving the kids to run into these problems face-first.

There are no “bad test takers”. What there is a system of education that ineffectively teaches reading, grammar, and math skills because of its very structure. If foundational skills were effectively taught and evaluated, then students could far better display their potential on standardized tests. When, as a tutor, you sit down with a kid to work through the SAT, it is easy to see when they fundamentally don’t understand what a passage is saying. Therefore, they have no chance at answering the corresponding comprehension questions. They have a gap in the reading ability and critical thinking skills. That would allow them to successfully work through a test. The harsh reality is that this hypothetical student is reading far below their grade level. Either that or he lacks foundational concept knowledge and critical thinking skills that schools are supposed to provide.

Throwing out the term “bad test taker” and leaving it at that is doing a disservice to the student. Denying the accountability of the school system. Also, lying to the parent that there is not anything they can do for their kid. The myth of the bad test taker must be dispelled. We have to look the truth in the eyes. It must be acknowledged that most kids can not make up for what the education system is supposed to be giving them on their own. We have to step up and take charge. Rather than leaving students to flounder in the feeling of always being left behind without knowing what they could be doing wrong. Because calling someone a bad test taker is a step in the direction of giving up.

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