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To Test, or Not To Test?

I have exactly two months left in South America before my flight leaves from Buenos Aires back to reality. I have only a couple of weeks of classes left (which is a little ridiculous, considering some of the classes have only met twice so far…). Final exams are fast approaching! Taking tests in Argentina has been a challenge, not necessarily due to the material or even the language barrier (although the language barrier doesn’t help any!), but due to the fact that I never have an idea of what to expect.

Unlike the United States, where there are “homework assignments”, which are done outside of class, “quizzes”, which are typically worth more than homework assignments and only test over one subject, and “tests”, which are typically more important, and have the possibility of covering a variety of topics, there is much more gray area with the words used in the Argentinean school system. For example “tarea,” which I have been taught means “homework,” is an assignment that may or may not be completed outside of class. An in-class activity is called a tarea, as well as work that needs to be completed before the next class. A “parcial,” which I was told meant a mid-term exam, can be given at any point throughout the semester (I have a parcial in one of my classes two weeks before the final exam). And then, things get really tricky.

There are assignments called “trabajo prácticos”, which, after taking one towards the beginning of the semester, I was under the impression that it was similar to U.S. “quizzes,” an evaluation over one topic, completed in-class. When my professor told me last week that we would be having a “trabajo práctico teórico” the following class, I spent several hours outside of class preparing. When I got to class and the professor started handing out the trabajo práctico teóricos, many of the students started looking through their notes for the answers.  Although I hadn’t expected it, I was so relieved when the girl sitting next to me said that we could use our notes on the assignment. Then, many of the students began grouping together and talking about the questions/answers….during the trabajo práctico! And the professors didn’t say anything! After working on the assignment for an hour and a half, I realized I was not going to finish by the time the class ended. I then thought that it was a good thing that I had studied, because otherwise, I would have had even less done by the end of class. I quickly hurried through the last couple of questions in order to have SOME kind of a response for every question. At the end of the class, my professor said to “bring them back next time completed. Confused, and mildly frustrated that not only did I not have to study the material, but that I would have to re-complete the last few questions that I hurried to finish at the end, I took the trabajo práctico teórico home to rewrite.

When I arrived the next class period, I assumed we would turn the assignment in, as a take-home, open-book test/homework assignment. Not so fast. We went through each of the answers AS A CLASS, in order to change the answers to the correct ones and to understand all of the material. Don’t get me wrong, this was a great review of the material, but it was not what I was expecting, considering we had taken a trabajo práctico in the same class just a few weeks before, and it was a closed book, individual, in-class evaluation. After verifying that everyone in the class had the right answers, we turned them in. Which also didn’t make sense to me, because everyone at that point had the same answers and the material would be much more beneficial if we had it with us to study.

This is just one example of my confusions with the Argentine school system. Even though I feel that I have adapted to the Argentine way of life, there are still reminders, such as this one, that there are cultural differences that are sometimes difficult for me to understand. I am a little anxious for what the final exams will look like, but I am interested to see how the semester/my classes wrap up (I have a feeling it will be quite different from what I am used to!)

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