SDSU needs sensible placement testing

by Kelly Gardner

Tests, tests and more tests. Sometime it feels as if all you do in college is constantly take exams. Whether its taking a test for a class, or taking a placement test to get into a class, with all the work students strive to balance, the stress of another exam often seems unnecessary.

At San Diego State, some students have an extra burden added to their workload depending on what major they’ve chosen. For instance, a student wishing to enter the journalism, advertising or public relations program must first pass the Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation test. Without successfully passing the GSP, students are denied admission to that college, but may petition the department for admission.

SDSU has stated the GSP test is a requirement that “indicates probable success in the curriculum and in related careers.” There are other majors at SDSU requiring students to take placement tests. Those tests are also used as indicators of how each student may perform. The difference between the GSP and placement tests for majors such as science and mathematics is that they only distinguish what level each individual student is at. A student who may have done poorly on a placement tests risks having to take an extra class to bring them up to speed. A student who fails to pass the GSP risks not getting into their major. This can create a significant amount of additional stress for a student.

Because SDSU requires journalism students to pass a mandatory test in order to be accepted into the major, it should require students from all majors to pass tests specific to their respective fields of study before being admitted.

Grammar, spelling and punctuation are considered fundamentals every journalist should be familiar with, and I assume this is SDSU’s reason for requiring journalism students prove their linguistic proficiency. I realize that grammar, spelling and punctuation may not be as important to a student studying art, so there is no reason for them to take the GSP.

However, I am sure there are still fundamentals of art that every student in that field needs to learn, just as I would assume chemistry majors need to be familiar with the periodic table of elements and an engineering major needs to be familiar with mathematics. SDSU should be administering tests to every field of study that requires student demonstrate they have the foundation needed to enter into the professional field fully prepared.

If SDSU is not going to ensure that every student is properly prepared for specific majors then it shouldn’t require any students to do so. The GSP is a test many students have trouble passing. Even with three opportunities to pass it, you won’t have trouble finding students who failed and had to petition for admission to the journalism program. In 2011, 134 students took the GSP between the months of April and July, of those 134 students only 29 of them passed, meaning 78.3 percent failed. The results do not account for how many times each student had taken the GSP previously.

Instead of forcing journalism students to pass the GSP to get into their desired majors, SDSU should consider using it as a placement test similar to how other majors use placement tests. Students who place exceptionally low should be placed in classes where they will receive training in those fundamental journalistic elements. By the time a student fails the GSP they have most likely completed multiple classes specific to the journalism curriculum. Those classes are essentially worthless outside of the program, so choosing another major forces students to start again with almost all their classes. The GSP shouldn’t decide if student is suitable to enter the fields of journalism, advertising or public relations.

SDSU is putting added stress on certain students and it’s unfair. They should test everyone for their major’s fundamental knowledge or they shouldn’t test anyone. We should be taught everything we need to know within the material of our curriculum and if there is any sign that our professors are not covering everything we need to know in the classroom, there need to be some changes. The number of students struggling with the GSP should be an indication that the journalism curriculum might be lacking some content.