Photo by Cindy Cui / Photo Editor

By Katie Brent, Contributor

It is undeniable that planning is essential for any university student to succeed. With a multitude of courses and a bundle of assignments per course, careful scheduling is one of the most valuable tools to stay ahead. What happens, though, when you can’t plan ahead and when assessments come out of the blue? 

In some courses, students are faced with this issue. Dreaded “pop” assessments are extraordinarily stressful to students, and they do not keep the diverse needs of students in mind.

In essence, assessments like pop quizzes are employed in order to keep students on track with their learning. The idea is that if the thought of an assessment is always lurking in the shadows, a student will keep on top of their work and not leave everything until the end.

I am sure many students, myself included, can attest that leaving work until the very last minute isn’t the greatest idea — so, on the surface, the idea of pop quizzes seems like a decent idea. However, trying to keep students on track for the sake of their learning actually takes agency away from students. 

Each student has a unique schedule that in addition to school may include work, clubs and other commitments. In reality, students won’t always be on top of all of their classes at all times, and trying to keep the entire class at the same pace with pop assignments isn’t realistic.

Furthermore, surprise assignments are not entirely equitable. For example, pop quizzes and tests for students that use Student Accessibility Service can cause undue stress.

At SAS, assessments must be booked in advance, and this is difficult to do with pop quizzes. As such, alternative arrangements usually need to be made with instructors. For students with any sort of anxiety, the constant threat of a pop quiz can distract from focusing on learning. Even for the most well-adjusted student, pop assessments are daunting — they require a tolerance of uncertainty that, frankly, many people do not have.

Although pop quizzes may seem to reward consistent studying on the surface, this is not always the case. You will be hard pressed to find a student who hasn’t had an off week, who hasn’t had a lot on their plate at once and who hasn’t played the catch-up game. 

When a pop quiz falls during one of these periods, it’s pretty unfair to a student who may otherwise be on the ball. So, instructors — think twice about putting surprise assignments on the syllabus. Do what’s best for learning, and plan it out.


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