EXAMINING THE PLACE FOR EXAMS, WHATCOM’S TESTING CENTER
by Matt Benoit
Behind the wooden double-doors of Laidlaw 133 lies a room absent of most sound, filled with desks and numbered chairs that are usually at least half-full with students making up faculty exams, doing GED testing, or taking math and English placement exams. This room is Whatcom’s Testing Center.
Named after Norma Stevens, former program manager for drop-in advising and testing services, the testing center has given out over 10,000 tests in the last four academic quarters.
Lisa Anderson, testing center coordinator, said that Stevens, who retired from Whatcom a few years ago, worked to improve the standards and environment for testing at the college, and helped secure the funding and space for the current testing center.
“Our previous space was small and inefficient to meet the growing needs of our students,” said Anderson in an e-mail.
Students needing to make up exams from faculty must make advanced arrangements with their instructor and arrive with enough time to complete the test. GED Testing is available by appointment and requires a mandatory enrollment session prior to testing, along with a one-time $75 fee.
Individual and ESLA placement testing is available on a drop-in basis, while math and standard English placement testing requires a group testing appointment and a one-time fee of $20. Group tests are normally held in a different location, and Anderson said two to three placement test sessions a day are common during finals weeks in order to accommodate new students for the next quarter of classes.
Individual placement testing is not offered during finals week, as Anderson explained that the center dedicates all its time and space to faculty finals, facilitating anywhere from 300 to 500 tests during that week.
Community proctored exams for non-students are also available on a limited basis.
With all this testing, does cheating ever occur? Anderson said that although she believes the testing center does a great job at preventing it, it can be hard to determine the difference between a student’s honest mistake and an attempt to smuggle in unauthorized materials for a test.
“We try to give the student the benefit of the doubt when these materials are discovered during check-in,” she said. “What happens in the check-in room stays in the check-in room, unless the attempt is really flagrant.”
Repeated attempts at taking in banned materials are documented for faculty, Anderson said, adding that only a few students tend to get something past. She usually documents at least seven situations a quarter, but said that how the students cheat will remain “a trade secret.”
Still, Anderson said cheating is something that makes the staff of the Learning Center feel very badly. “We work here because we like students and want to play a part in helping them succeed,” she said, adding that students’ reactions to being caught range from tears to anger.
“I think many students would typically not cheat but have found themselves unprepared for a variety of reasons and then make a bad choice,” Anderson said. “We strive very hard to not personalize the situation, stay supportive, non-judgmental, and professional.”
Testing Center Hours for Fall Quarter (through Dec. 10)
Mondays: 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Tuesdays: 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Wednesdays: 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Thursdays: 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Fridays: 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
A photo I.D. is required for all testing, and any fees must be paid in full prior to testing with a receipt of payment required to be shown.