Teachers teach to the test, students study to the test

By | June 23, 2010

The DepEd is finally bidding adieu to multiple choice test. Better late than never, I must say. So my fellow math teachers, the next time you are required to make purely multiple choice items for periodical test or are given by the division, or by the regional office an achievement test in multiple choice, you can quote the following: Annex A – The Monitoring and Evaluation of the Implementation of the 2002 Basic Education Curriculum: Findings and Recommendations of the UbD-based 2010 Secondary Education Curriculum Guide for Mathematics 1 document released by DepEd. On page 9-10 of the said document you will find this report:


9. Teachers teach to the test, students study to the test.

The use of traditional assessment tools like the multiple-response, simple recall, recognition and application tests is predominant.  Rubrics, portfolios, and other forms of authentic assessment are not widely used.  Teachers are aware of the limitations of traditional tests and the need for alternative forms to measure higher order thinking skills.  However, they tend to resort to the traditional forms for several compelling reasons:

  • These are the types used in periodic and achievement examinations.
  • They are easier to score.  (Teachers teach as many as 300 to 400 students a day and scoring non-traditional measures like rubrics could be an ordeal.)
  • They are easier to prepare than the non-traditional forms like portfolios, rubrics, and other authentic measures.
  • These are what everybody else is using.
  • Teachers have inadequate knowledge of authentic learning and authentic assessment.

Documentary analysis showed that schools in general lack an institutionalized system of utilizing test results for diagnostic and remedial purposes.

Teachers tend to teach to the test; students tend to study to the test.  This culture is reinforced by supervisors who specify units to be taught and tested for each grading period and use test results more for judging rather than improving teacher and student performance.


Schools should review their present assessment practices.  The teacher appraisal system and the kinds of tests used in the classroom as well as those, in the division and national examinations, should be evaluated against the goals and objectives of the Basic Education Curriculum, among which is the development of critical thinkers and problem solvers.

Schools should also consider the use of alternative assessment tools and techniques that would provide opportunities for students to experience learning as an enjoyable, delighting process of inquiry, discovery, construction and creation of new knowledge, rather than as a tedious process of cramming to pass examinations.

While schools should double their efforts for students mastery of the basic competencies they should also never lose sight of the fact that their ultimate goal should be the development of functionally literate citizens of a democratic community.

I think the DepEd forgot to include another reason why teachers use multiple choice test. The sixth bullet should be: The National Achievement tests  in all subject areas are 100%  in multiple-choice type form and the test results are used more for comparing schools rather than as basis for developing programs for improving teaching competence and performance.

The day the National Achievement Test (NAT) of the DepEd will include constructed-response type questions should be declared a national holiday because it will really mark a turning point in the history of education in the Philippines.

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10 thoughts on “Teachers teach to the test, students study to the test

  1. goldstudentcom


    I would like to introduce you our website: http://www.goldstudent.com

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  2. Bernardo

    Hi! Does this mean we should not use the traditional type of assessment anymore or we should just use it sparingly and carefully?

  3. webmaths

    You make some excellent points here! I totally agree. Unfortunately little or no value is credited to a teachers “intuitive” assessment of a student by observation, etc. “If you can’t test it, its not worthwhile doing”, is a nonsense I think.

    1. erlines

      Very well said, webmaths and to think that most of the things worthwhile doing and knowing are the ones hard to assess.


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