The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

    Thinking lost in modern classes

    This is disconcerting. Here I am, a senior at a major university with higher than a 3.5 cumulative GPA and in the top 15 percent of my class. But according to a recent examination (the medical college admissions test also known as the MCAT), I am essentially ineligible to receive consideration for entrance into medical school. How does something like this happen? How does one go through an entire college curriculum completing all courses successfully but fail to show any semblance of learning when given an aptitude test?
    My recent horrific experience taking the MCAT did two things. First, it showed me how little I understood the concepts taught in my classes. Second, it showed me a great flaw in the way students are educated. If standardized tests, which emphasize thinking skills, play a major role in what schools you get accepted to, why don’t teachers and professors spend more time teaching us how to think?
    I know this may sound somewhat unnecessary since we all have the ability to think and reason on our own, but if that is what test writers really want us to demonstrate, then why do we put so much emphasis on grades and tests during the grueling semester only to go into a standardized aptitude test full of uncertainty and a knot in the pit of our stomachs? Shouldn’t we walk into a test with some degree of confidence that the hours of hard work over years of school have actually been worth our time and effort?
    I am at the point now where I don’t know whether I’ve learned a darn thing in all my years in school. According to my MCAT score, I would have to be blind, deaf and dumb to say I’ve gone through four years as an undergraduate, three months of test preparation and over $400 of test prep material to garner the score I did.
    But I’m not one to rant about a problem without offering ways to address it, so here it goes. Secondary schools, as well as universities, should change their approaches to learning. The classes should revolve around the idea of thinking for learning.
    If standardized tests stress thinking and understanding the concepts objectively and being able to formulate conclusions based on our thinking capabilities, why are we wasting our time just learning the material at face value? There needs to be a concerted effort to teach students so that they can reason through and understand the material presented in their courses, particularly in the area of the sciences.
    Physics, chemistry and biology are currently taught in separate classes, located in different buildings and are listed as separate majors. However, dividing up the sciences for ease of teaching without bringing them all together and showing how they relate to each other is why we have such a hard time trying to understand them.
    Everything in school for the most part is taught without taking into account the big picture, and when it is finally incorporated, many students are understandably confused; they are forced to change their whole understandings of subjects late in the game. This is what many standardized tests, including the MCAT, do to us.
    It’s not that the questions are absurdly difficult; it’s that they’re written to test us in a way we’ve never practiced being tested, and the way I see it we shouldn’t have to. We shouldn’t have to pay $1,500 for a class to teach us how to answer questions one way and then spend five hours a day on campus learning a completely different way.
    Education is said to be the key to success, but what type of success is there in dumping loads of money in an undergraduate program that doesn’t prepare you for graduate school or a job in a related field? This is not a personal attack on this school or other universities and educators specifically, but on the system under which they operate. I understand that they can’t be responsible for 100 percent of their students understanding 100 percent of the material. But when you have an A student who isn’t even able to reproduce that knowledge (on a standardized test) on a C level, then there’s a problem.
    Whether the problem is with the test writers, teachers or students is unclear, and there is no simple way of getting to the answer. More likely than not, it’s a little bit of all our faults. However, it’s important that educators recognize that there is a huge discrepancy in what students are expected to know and what they have actually learned and are able to apply.
    For folks in my position, there is hope as well. I trust that there are educators out there who are willing to teach those of us catching on late in the game.

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    Thinking lost in modern classes