Reduce assessment stress with laughter

When I was in high school, I always hated class tests. I found them restrictive, they made me stressed and I mostly felt that I couldn’t do my best. Assignments allowed me to be at least a little creative and, as in the real world, seek and receive help when needed.

I had a particular dislike for maths (sorry maths teachers) as it always seemed to take me a little longer than everyone else to complete equations. I remember also the incredibly boring scenarios that would be given to us where ‘Joe Bloggs’ would buy some apples from ‘John Smith’.

Despite how I loathed them, I do recognise that tests are practical and a legitimate form of assessment. While testing and examinations are an regular part of summative assessment in schools, they don’t need to be so dry and boring.

At my current school we have end of term tests for our Studies of Society and the Environment units. Fortunately, teachers are allowed to write their own questions and differentiate for students with particular learning needs.

This year, I decided to try and make my tests more relatable and enjoyable for students. While some sections will always be dull, I tried to ‘spice things up’ with a dose of lame humour.


The aim was to make sure that the students would laugh or smile. While this isn’t a normal occurrence in tests, and can be a little distracting, I thought it was worth it to try and reduce ‘test stress’.

Ridiculous additional answers for multiple choice questions, scenarios involving Gotham City, Taylor Swift or Ed Sheeran and additional silly questions were all included.

My Year 7 students all let me know how incredibly lame I am after reading this question that was based on a class joke.

Consumer Ed

While it might seem like a daft idea, it did make the kids laugh or groan, the jokes were incredibly lame after all. However, at least I know that during an hour of hell for many students, there was a little enjoyment. After all, what’s the world without a bit of fun.

I’ve also tried to make assignments more enjoyable too focusing on small projects that are constantly becoming more practical. While my Year 9’s have recently been writing a report for our SOSE faculty on a natural disaster, I gave the Year 7’s an imaginary $2000 to design an exclusive two day party for themselves and 9 friends.

This weekend I have been reading about their exciting (and expensive) plans. Trips to Sydney, jumping castles in family backyards, scuba-diving, and a hired chef and magician at a penthouse room at the Hyatt! I hope their parents don’t complain about the inflated party expectations…

Assessment is tough, it should be. We should have high expectations and standards for our kids and they should aim to meet them. But it shouldn’t always be boring, and it has to be flexible!

Most of my students complain about all of their assessment. However, I hope that they can bare mine and, perhaps, even manage a smile or two along the way.


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