EK tests develop comprehension skills rather than memorization

When comparing the subjects of a standard curriculum, English tends to exclusively own the right to student interpretation, yet it is still important not to lose this aspect of exploration in other classes.

In History courses, a majority of the lesson plan consists of the memorization and regurgitation of unwavering facts, but the one exception to this is the Essential Knowledge exam. The EK is a written unit assessment broken into four components per term: date, definition, background and significance, and as of last year, every grade uses the testing method.

From the perspective of a student looking to ace an exam, much of history can be skimmed over by quickly cramming key dates and battle names the night before. However, the broader questions that arise through an in-depth look into key figures and events build a much more intelligible conversation between peers. This conversation is created through the EK’s compartmentalization of fundamental conclusions drawn from history. Isolating individuals and incidents breaks up the often cluttered arrangement of a time period, and establishes a comprehensive formula for understanding and mastering information, which allows a longer period of retention.

The idea behind its format is to act as an alternative to the traditional composition of a multiple choice test, as well as to evaluate one’s understanding of an event’s greater picture, rather than irrelevant details. For those who tend to overthink questions during an exam, the challenge of speed and performance during a written test are much preferred over the overwhelming options in a traditional scantron test. The multiple choice portion of the unit exam is still mandatory, which provides a fair balance for test takers that struggle with writing and pace.

As the standards based grading continues to be implemented across more subjects, the belief that teachers should have some flexibility in their grading becomes more prevalent. This supports the idea that a student’s’ overall understanding as perceived by the teacher is a better indicator than predetermined answers and percentage scores. The Essential Knowledge curriculum is a perfect example of this.