Yes, Pop Quizzes Are Beneficial to Students’ Learning

By Alessandra Woo (IV), Assistant Editor

Students everywhere know all too well about the process of devoting their blood, sweat and tears to academics, but still having the feeling of not retaining what is needed to pass exams. Coming back strong from the pandemic, Boston Latin School students are starting to see old classroom staples, such as pop quizzes, appear again. While many students despise unannounced assessments for their sudden drops in GPA, pop quizzes are actually beneficial to their long-term success.

BLS students know better than anyone about the stress of staying up late, cramming for a test the next day. Having pop quizzes implemented into curriculums can work actively against unhealthy procrastination.

Ms. Marie Attia, a BLS Spanish teacher, explains, “Pop quizzes motivate the students to study at a more disciplined pace […] on scheduled exams they have a tendency to procrastinate studying until the night before the exam.”

While planned assessments give students ample time to study, most of that free time is used by students to catch up on homework or study for another class’s quiz, until, lo and behold, that exam is the next morning. Pop quizzes push students to review little bits of information each day so that they will be prepared in anticipation of a quiz.

Katherine Martin (III) has noticed this trend with her own grades, saying, “When I am anticipating a pop quiz, I study regularly. […] I began to consistently study my Latin vocab on the train ride to school, and have noticed an increase in my vocab quiz grades.” Not only does this strategy improve short-term grades, it also teaches students the importance of time management, pushes them to develop better study habits and helps with retaining information.

Classics teacher Mr. Patrick Finnigan uses pop quizzes in his curriculum as well. Without pop quizzes, he has seen that “by the time the exam rolls around, [the earlier information is] kind of gone because you haven’t studied bits at a time.”

Reviewing content from class everyday, even for five minutes, can help increase active recall skills and long-term retention. It is common for students to study the night before an exam, receive a satisfactory grade but forget all the information by the end-of-term test.

Despite these benefits, it is no lie that pop quizzes can induce anxiety and feelings of uncertainty, especially for those who need extra time. Pop quizzes can only be beneficial when they give all students equal chances to succeed. Like any other assessment, they need to be
modified for students with special learning accommodations so that those students can get the extra time they need.

That being said, even the brightest student will not always have the time for daily review and will not always perform well on pop quizzes. Between homework, extracurricular activities and social life, pop quizzes can easily catch students on the wrong foot.

Mr. Finnigan, however, sees the long-term benefits of this, saying, “Year after year, kids come back to me. […] I have them in ninth grade, [and in] their senior year they [tell me] ‘I don’t worry about a test […] I’m going to learn it better and I’m going to do better in the long run.’”

As long as a curriculum equally consists of both planned quizzes and pop quizzes, a single bad grade on a pop quiz will not affect one’s average, but will instead become a learning experience for that student. Having a fair balance between the two both allows students to play to their strengths and improve upon their weaknesses.

Pop quizzes push students to study more efficiently and, through this engagement, help with long-term learning and retention. As Martin puts it, “Pop quizzes motivate me to be proactive about my learning […] and [I have] become a better student as a result.”