Should students be allowed to retake a test that they have failed? If so, are there other requirements that they must meet, such as a tutoring session, first? Should their grade reflect an average...

Should students be allowed to retake a test that they have failed? If so, are there other requirements that they must meet, such as a tutoring session, first? Should their grade reflect an average of both attempts, or just the second try?

Asked on by pacorz

63 Answers

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robineliza | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted on

Not to be selfish about this whole idea, but the workload issue must be addressed.  I find that I'm a less effective teacher under this system of retakes, because I am grading twice as many papers, retesting kids until 4pm several days per week, and writing new assessments when I should be lesson planning.  I am with students from 7 - 3:30 most days - and that includes my lunch time, and then I take two hours of work home as well.  I also devote at least one weekend day to work.  Some of this comes from teaching a new class this year, but most of the work comes from the retake policy.   Teachers that coach, and are thus not available after school are using what would ordinarily be instructional time to retest students.  This is completely unfair to students who DID study the first time, did well, and are ready to move on. 

Another issue that I find is that the grades no longer are very discriminating between excellent students, who really do "get it," and much slower students who only "got it" after several retakes.  Both types of students get A's, but I find that the students who needed several tries have a much lower understanding of the material.  They are learning to the test, not to the comprehension and connections that define "A" students.  An A now means only that a student met the minimum competency required for most of the standards.  Hardly exemplary.

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I have a problem with retaking tests. The kids who do well on a test are generally the ones who prepare. Those who do not, generally don't do well. Most of the time, it's a question of priorities. I cover the material in class and try to review. If a student isn't doing the work, I don't see the point of giving a second shot: and honestly, most kids (I have found) don't use the extra time when it is given. (If there is a snow day the day the test is assigned, those who don't care don't use the extra time.) If a student is having personal problems at home or has been out sick for several days, I give them time to get notes, ask questions, and take the test later. I don't remember having opportunities to retake tests in college, and I don't imagine a boss will explain to a young employee that since the report is late or of poor quality, he (or she) can have a second chance. I think we are trying to prepare our students for a world after school. I think I'm fair enough and thorough enough that students have a real shot at doing well in my class, so I don't take the time to retest; I don't take the time to make up a new test. Somehow, for the other kids, it doesn't quite seem fair, either.

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larrygates | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I tend to agree with Post # 8.  The purpose of teaching is to see that students gain and carry away knowledge from the course. A test is simply a means of determining if the student has absorbed that which we wished for him/her to absorb. A failing test grade means he did not do so; nothing more; and for that there may be myriad reasons, not all within the student's realm of responsibility. Perhaps the student did not understand; perhaps the teacher did a poor job on that lesson (yes, it happens.) Perhaps the student had a bad day, or some other mitigating factor. A teacher's role is not to punish a student with a poor grade, although far too many do. I never allow my students to take the same test ver batim, I make some changes to prevent memorization and regurgitation; but I do believe students need positive reinforcement at times, and for that reason, I do allow students to retake tests. If/when I allow a retest, I limit the amount of points they can earn to 75% of the possible test from the first attempt. This way, they are less likely to become discouraged, and I don't become the mean old referee who imposes punitive sanctions when they don't measure up.

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wannam | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

I did offer retakes.  Personally, I am not a very good test taker, so I understand bombing a test when you actually know the material.  My students were required to attend at least one tutorial session before they were allow to retake the test.  The tutorial and the retake had to be schedule within a certain amount of time (I didn't want kids to come up and ask for retakes after they saw their progress reports).  My retake tests weren't easy either.  They were often more difficult versions of the original test.  For example, if the original test was multiple choice, I might offer the student a retake with the same questions but require them to use short answer rather than giving them answer choice options.  I gave the grade of the second test without exception; even if the student did better the first time, they still got the retest grade.  Usually, only a student with a legitimate concern about their grade and a true desire to improve would retake a test.

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stolperia | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I think we need to consider the reason for the test and the age of the students. I taught seventh grade Social Studies, covering geography and civics - two topics not designed to highly motivate many seventh graders, and (rightly or wrongly) not a subject area evaluated by AYP high-stakes tests.

I allowed students to make corrections on chapter tests, based on use of notes and organizers and textbooks, and gave half-credit for each corrected answer added to their original score. My rationale was that, at this level for these students, the tests weren't the absolute final evaluation of their knowledge in the subject area. I observed connections being recognized and understanding taking place as they worked together to figure out the "what and why" while making their corrections. Because I wasn't in a situation where I had to produce definitive measurements of educational growth, I felt a somewhat more humanistic approach was acceptable.

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Noelle Thompson | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

I offer so much to my students in regards to preparation for tests in my class, that there is no way I would ever allow a retake.  (This is not even taking into consideration the huge amounts of work in regards to test creation and grading this would require!)

My students know that, if they are truly worried about a particular test, they will not only have a review day where I use a game to ask actual test questions but also I will give any students "hints" who show up after school to my test study-session.  There is no excuse for failures on my tests.  *sigh*  For my students who still manage to fail anyway, I am always happy to give extra credit assignments.  (Often, this is doing research to help me teach my next unit!)

All of this being said, I have no problems with other teachers giving retakes, it just doesn't happen to be a method that I use.  Teaching is like parenting, ... respect for various styles is key!

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I would never allow a student to retake the same test that they have already failed.  I have, at times, told students that I would ignore (or reduce the weight of) a poor grade if they would improve their grade on subsequent tests.  I think this is a good way of giving a student hope that their grade has not been irretrievably harmed.

I would not have any philosophical problems with giving a student a second test covering the same material as the failed test.  In such a case, I would not require anything of the student.  I would tell them it is their responsibility to study well enough to improve their grade.  I would probably (depending on my reading of the student's overall attitude) put much more weight on the second test.  (I'm known as being a pretty student-friendly teacher, though, and many would probably disagree with me.)

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brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

In very rare circumstances I will allow a retake, such as when a student was facing a personal or family crisis on test day and obviously were not themselves given the test results.  But in general, re-testing defeats the purpose of testing in my book.  It is important in my class for students to be prepared and fluent in material before we move on so they can build upon prior knowledge with each unit.  No retesting, no late testing and no late work are my motivators for them to work at the pace of the class instead of when they can fit it in somewhere.  I have found that, if students know they can retake a test, they don't have much enthusiasm to prepare for it the first time, and cheating is more likely to take place.

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bigdreams1 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted on

I don't allow retakes in my class, but some of the math teachers in our district allow what's called "corrections". The students can retry the questions they missed for a quarter credit each. This gives the students a chance to see where they might have gone wrong in thier calculations...and learn by fixing mistakes.

In most colleges...students are allowed to retake classes they have failed for a higher gpa. I so see some value in they review all the material again...but if that is the case...I think averaging the grades is the better route to the students just don't blow off the class the first time knowing that they can always do it again.

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embizze | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I allow corrections for a fraction of the missed points. As the year progresses, the value of the corrections goes down (e.g. by spring you can only get 1/5 of the missed points back). This reduces the "gaming" of the system -- by spring you will not be able to change a 50% score to a passing score.

I also have the students identify their errors, as well as provide the correct answer with supporting material. Thus the students have a chance to revisit material they might not have fully understood, and also they might see if they are consistently making the same types of mistakes -- hopefully making them pay more attention to these areas in the future.

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I personally don't like the idea of retaking tests, especially an exact duplicate of a previous one. However, students sure like the idea of it, and many administrators consider it a way to make the student (and parents) happy by giving them a second chance to make a higher grade. Under some circumstances, such as if a student has been sick or under emotional distress, I think it would be appropriate, but most of the time it's just a way for a student to improve on a grade when he/she didn't prepare properly in the first place. As a teacher, it also means extra time and work making up a second test for retesting and grading.

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Never. I also do not allow extra credit or revision after work is graded. If you allow retakes, extra credit, or revision, students will figure out that the most time-effective strategy is to turn in crap on the first round, and then only if it gets a failing grade, do as extras the work they should have done the first time. This can double or triple your workload.

I will workshop drafts of essays and do study sessions before tests -- but if a student doesn`t take advantage of those, then the student will, ideally, learn the important lesson that one must work hard or fail


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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I must agree with post #2. I would not allow a student to take the same test twice. I would, however, alter the test to examine if they have taken the time to study the concepts defined by the original test.

Normally I do not throw out a test score. I worked hard to create the tests and teach the material. But, the whole purpose is to see if a student can master the material (or at least maintain a grasp on the material).  If I must reteach, then I would ask the same question, but I would simply pose them in a different fashion.

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schulzie | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

I agree with post 8 and 9.  I think tests can be a learning experience.  I would not give the SAME test over, but I have given students a chance to take the test again. I rearrange the questions so there cannot be memorization of answers, and sometimes I reword the questions so that they have to know the answer.  I also  make just essay retakes.  If they can explain in their own words, they know the answer.  They cannot make more than a 75 on it since they know the type of questions, and it is their second time taking the test.

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kiwi | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

I think retakes need to be in the same format but certainly different questions. This is the only retaking I ever experienced in the UK. I sometimes offer students the chance to retakeif there is a major reason or basic error (I just had a student write one essay answering six questions, rather than one essay answering one question) HOWEVER the retake is not worth any credits - I am just offering the student a clearer perspective on their ability.

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