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Point Counterpoint: Should timed writing tests be discontinued?

Inez Stephenson
According to the National Library of Medicine, students all work at different paces. Timed writing assessments have served as a barrier for some students to demonstrate their writing ability but have also taught students important skills.

Yes – Inez Stephenson

“Two minutes left,” my teacher called out. To my dismay, the 20-minute window allotted for writing a paragraph on the Industrial Revolution had quickly disappeared. The stress of the time restraint on my assessment had prevented me from translating my thoughts onto paper.

When I received my grade the subsequent week, my confidence rapidly deflated. Despite my interest in the Industrial Revolution and hours of preparation, the time limit hindered me from demonstrating my true knowledge and understanding. 

The High School commonly administers timed writing assessments in social studies, English and science classes. The true purpose of writing assessments is to test analytical thinking and content knowledge, and the imposition of a time constraint is an unnecessary additional challenge to many students like myself. 

Despite adequate preparation, timed writing tests prohibit students from demonstrating their full knowledge because every student works at a different pace. Test-related anxiety can fog up thinking, putting many learners at a disadvantage.

According to the National Library of Medicine, some students work quickly but do not execute a task well, while others work more thoughtfully but struggle to finish on time. Due to various working paces, it is not logical to put a time limit on writing tasks as it will never truly measure each student’s analytical skills and understanding of content. 

I tend to work slowly and do not function optimally under pressure. Time restrictions prevent me from showcasing the extent of my learning and can unfairly disadvantage students with test-related anxiety.

According to a survey conducted by The Standard Dec. 1 2023 with 126 responses, 73.8% of High School students disagree or strongly disagree with the statement, “time limits on summative writing tasks allow me to demonstrate my full knowledge and understanding.”

Students who face pressure due to time limits may make small mistakes that can be detrimental to their grades, according to The New York Times. Timed writing can create a gap between a student’s class grade and their understanding of class content.

Writing is an activity that benefits from conversation and peer feedback. It is rare for professional authors to publish writing or a project without going through a review process. Therefore, writing tests with no time to work with others is unproductive because they do not prepare students for the professional world outside of assessment culture. 

While some argue that academic dishonesty is the reasoning behind timed writing assessments, a majority of High School students do not believe that timed writing assessments are less susceptible to academic dishonesty than alternative assessment forms. Survey results also revealed that 63.5% of High School students disagree or strongly disagree with the statement “timed writing assessments are more fair and authentic than administering graded essays as homework.”

While some believe that timed writing assessments are important to teach students to rely on just their own knowledge and not consult outside resources, people are allowed to consult outside resources in the working world. In preparation for life beyond high school, students should instead learn how to refine their writing and think deeply about crafting an essay.

Getting rid of stressful in-class timed writing will give students the freedom to experiment with writing, exhibit their true analytic skills, and be more prepared for the working world. Thus, in order to give all students an equal chance to exhibit their knowledge, summative writing should be given as homework assignments instead of in-class timed assessments.


No – Tara Behbehani

Last month, I took my first in-class mini Document-Based Questions essay for AP U.S. History. I was given 24 minutes to read and annotate four documents, as well as write an introduction paragraph, a thesis, and a body paragraph. I was only finishing my first paragraph when my teacher approached my desk and said with a concerned expression: “You have five minutes left.” At that moment, I was shocked at how carelessly I let time slip away. However, I continued, trying to write as much of my first body paragraph as I could in the remaining minutes. 

I ended up doing terribly on that DBQ, all because the time limit hindered my performance. Nevertheless, the experience convinced me that time constraints are not my test-taking enemy but a catalyst for improvement over time. 

Ultimately, timed writing assessments should not be discontinued as they are able to be supervised and develop important academic and lifelong skills like time management and accurate execution of quick tasks.

One skill I lacked during the DBQ was time management. Essentially, the ability to organize and distribute my time effectively. When students write under pressure, we refine this skill immensely. This is because time constraints force students to work productively –  we have no time to waste on distractions or procrastinating. 

Additionally, timed writing tests improve students’ mental agility. The time limit motivates students to make accurate and quick writing choices, such as selecting or recalling information and deciding on the best essay structure.

I have noticed an advancement in my ability to adapt when completing timed writing assessments since taking my first DBQ. For instance, I am now able to write out a whole body paragraph in less than five minutes. Ultimately, my familiarity with timed writing tests has improved how I deal with test conditions that require immediate action. 

Furthermore, these skills are imperative to academic achievement and real-life scenarios. Successfully managing your time and performing under pressure are skills required in the professional world beyond High School classes.

Regardless of their academic path in college, students will likely have to take numerous timed writing tests. The purpose of High School is to prepare students for the future, including higher education.

By continuing the practice of timed writing tests, we can ensure that students do not leave the school with underdeveloped skills that will cause them to struggle in the future. 

According to The New York Times, many students believe that time limits develop their ability to deal with stressful situations and focus under pressure. 

Writing tests are undoubtedly stress-inducing, but unfortunately, these are the realities of life. By practicing ways to deal with demanding situations in high school, students will remain fit for larger issues that arise in adulthood.

While time constraints may feel like an obstacle to perfectionism and creativity, they actually improve critical skills that will help us flourish. Over time, we master these skills as we continue to practice them during writing tests.

I acknowledge that sometimes time limits can cut students’ writing off: I have been a victim of such an annoyance many times. However, students must master time management to the best of their abilities.

Furthermore, there are measures the social studies, English, and science departments can employ to ensure that students display the entirety of their knowledge.

For instance, certain math teachers allow students who do not finish under the time limit to continue working with a different colored pen. This method can be extended to writing pieces so students can finish their work while clearly distinguishing their content knowledge from the work they completed within the time restriction.  

Moreover, in-class writing tests are more authentic and fairer than any alternative. In-class writing assignments are conducted under a controlled environment that ensures all students – except those with learning accommodations – are completing the task in the same amount of time and environment. When graded essays are given as homework assignments, issues around academic integrity arise because there is no guarantee that a student’s work will represent their raw knowledge. 

Students may take excessive time to complete the assignment and utilize online sources. With the degree of information on the internet, monitored tests are the best way to ensure students’ work is genuine. 

Students may also look to their friends for support. Although peer edits may help the writing process, they also take away authenticity from a piece of writing. This is because students may rely heavily on or conform to their editor’s writing style. 

Ultimately, by allowing students to do these tests at home, their pieces may not be entirely their own and will not convey to their teachers what they can do by themself. 

Overall, while time restrictions may seem like our test-taking enemies, we must acknowledge their benefits. In doing so, students will recognize how timed writing assessments have helped hone imperative skills that make us more mentally agile.

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About the Contributors
Tara Behbehani
Tara Behbehani, Opinions Editor: Online
Tara Behbehani ('25) is the Opinions Editor: Online of The Standard. Behbehani’s passion for reading and writing urged her to take a journalism course. Aside from The Standard, Behbehani is on the debate team and co-leads the Interfaith and Dialogue club.
Inez Stephenson, Media Team
Inez Stephenson ('26) is a member of the Media Team of The Standard in Advanced Journalism.

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