For that extra “pop” in school, bring back pop quizzes


Greer Vermilye

I’ll admit it: I love pop quizzes. Regardless of their almost exclusively negative reputation, the incentive they provide me to stay on top of my schoolwork is unparalleled.

“Everyone clear your desk,” the teacher announces. “We have a pop quiz.”

In a predictable fashion, the entire class groans. One lone student, however, stands out from the rest: me. I whisper, “Yes.”

I’ll admit it: I love pop quizzes. Regardless of their almost exclusively negative reputation, the incentive they provide me to stay on top of my schoolwork is unparalleled.

Unfortunately, all great relationships must come to an end. In contrast to previous years, teachers nowadays rarely give pop quizzes, a phenomenon partially due to the fact that the tests received criticisms.

“I used to give out reading pop quizzes to my students,” said social studies teacher Gregory Herbert. “But then a parent complained about how I was quizzing their child on material that was only covered in the textbook and not in class, so I stopped giving them.”

But this change was not for the better. The flexibility of virtual learning has caused a number of kids to forgo paying attention in class and skip doing assigned readings. Many kids are also supplementing learning by digging for answers online. A plausible solution to the current cheating outbreak is bringing back pop quizzes.

This year, students have been able to hide behind their names on Zoom and become immersed in distractions around their homes. An array of potential interruptions — particularly the internet — means that students often stop paying attention in class, which destroys the learning process.

If, however, students knew there was a decent chance they would be tested on material within an hour of learning the information, there would be a greater incentive for them to listen. This motivation exists uniquely with pop quizzes. Since teachers typically give the tests at the end of class, there is no time other than during lessons to learn the material before the assessment.

Reintroducing pop quizzes would also help students complete their work on time. According to an informal Black & White survey of 67 students across all grades, the vast majority of Whitman students procrastinate their schoolwork. The survey found that 72% of students “always” or “often” put off their assignments, and worse yet, 25% of survey participants admitted that they consistently turn in work late because they procrastinate.

However, pop quizzes about the homework could help remedy Whitman’s procrastination predicament. If students received quizzes that were difficult if they hadn’t completed their out-of-school practice, they would be more likely to keep up with their assignments, so they wouldn’t get stumped on a surprise test the next day. This possibility stands in contrast to cramming in work right before a unit exam, a method that can cause a great deal of stress and a lack of preparation for the test.

While some students simply delay doing work, many students skip doing some assignments altogether. In some classes, like AP U.S. History, teachers transmit course material primarily through textbook chapters. Students receive grades on the corresponding “reading guides” as a means for instructors to determine if they completed their assigned passages. Unfortunately, this is a flawed way to verify students did the work since some students complete their reading guides using WikiNotes or their peers’ answers. 

This is where pop quizzes could fill a void. The impromptu mini-tests would give students added encouragement to complete their readings by the due date.

“I support pop quizzes because it is a great way to impose good reading habits,” said AP Comparative Politics teacher Andrew Sonnabend. “I used to give lots of reading quizzes, particularly at the beginning of the year, and it made students get in the habit of doing their readings.”

Sadly, though perhaps not surprisingly, numerous students stand vehemently opposed to the possibility of pop quizzes making a comeback. Some oppose the surprise tests because of the inherent uncertainty surrounding when teachers will administer them.

“Pop quizzes shouldn’t be used,” sophomore Ryan Kulp said. “They create stress because students don’t have time to prepare for them.”

However, recurrent pop quizzes would address this pressure. If frequent enough, students would likely ready themselves for pop quizzes, which would alleviate unpreparedness for later exams and enhance time management skills.

“Pop quizzes create habits of staying on top of your work, ones that follow you as time goes on,” Sonnabend said.

No matter how unpopular pop quizzes may be, I hope that they make the ultimate comeback story — one that incentivizes students to thrive in their classes.