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Suggs: Exams do not define intelligence

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Sydney Lykins // Courtesy
Students often spend hours upon hours studying for their exams.

The first big exam week of the semester is here, and coffee, library seats and time to relax are too few in between. The rigorous college exam schedule fuels stress levels to such a high that the campus air feels different. Students face days of nonstop studying just for an exam to take less than an hour and only be worth a fraction of their final grade. And, of course, professors asked questions on the one topic that didn’t feel that important when studying. One bad grade might feel detrimental. But how important are these exams?

Assuming a student is taking the typical 15 credit hours and each class follows the standard exam schedule of three exams and a final, students can expect a range of 15 to 20 exams per semester and roughly 130 exams in a four-year span. With this perspective in mind, one exam holds little significance. While 130 may seem like an overwhelming number, it holds much less weight once graduation has come and gone.

When reflecting on college days, you likely won’t hear someone complaining about that one grade they got in chemistry or how they failed their English paper. Mostly, you’ll find people reminiscing about friends, football games and nighttime adventures. Fortunately, the world keeps spinning even after you fail an exam.

Exams have long been considered the standard measure of a student’s intelligence. The education system’s reliance on examinations helps to build the idea that performance on exams is synonymous with a student’s intelligence. This reliance causes many students to conclude that their intelligence aligns with their grades when they perform poorly on an exam.

Rather than focusing on a student’s ability to think critically and apply their knowledge, memorizing material takes a higher priority in the education system. Allowing this system to continue leads to students quickly forgetting information and their self-confidence to be defined by statistical standards.

Looking at my experience as a student, I’ve equated my self-worth to whatever grade is displayed on my Canvas page. More often than not, I find myself allowing it to affect my mood, how I treat others and my optimism in class.

Exams are important, but the ability to apply concepts and knowledge is much more applicable to life after college. While the bad grade you got on an exam may feel like the end of your academic career or your perfect grade point average, it serves as a reminder that grades do not define your character and will hold little value in your professional endeavors.

Abigail Suggs is a sophomore political science major from Columbia, South Carolina. You can reach her at [email protected].

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Abigail Suggs, Senior Reporter
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