Opinons vary on importance of Pruebas Saber


Students from all over Medellin gathering at Institución Educativa INEM José Félix De Restrepo about to start their exam.

As the proctor gives the order to start the exam a palpable tension begins to pervade the air, creating a suffocating silence that weighs heavily on the shoulders of every student. The clock ticks loudly. The pressure of expectations and the fear of failure hangs heavily in the air. It is exhausting and leaves students physically and mentally drained. Fried brains search for formulas, ideas, connections, and names that add up to almost 17 years’ worth of knowledge. 

On Sunday, March 26, the annual Pruebas Saber which usually determines the academic futures of thousands of Colombian students was held around the country. While the Pre-Saber serves as an optional practice, the Saber is a Colombian requirement and its results can have a significant impact on a student’s future career path and opportunities, making it crucial for them to perform well. the exam includes a wide range of subjects including math, science, social studies, and language arts designed to test critical thinking and problem-solving skills, as well as knowledge and comprehension. 

TCS Seniors Santiago Restrepo, Maria Isabel Tavera, and Jeronimo Pelaez and Grade 11 students Tomas Villegas and Valentina Cabal, along with certain students from all around the city, were divided between the Politecnico Colombiano Jaime Isaza Cadavid and the Institucion Educativa INEM, to present the Pruebas Saber. Others like Grade 11 student Jeronimo Mejia felt the Pre-Saber was not as important and decided not to take it.

How important do you consider the Pruebas exams?

Over the last couple of years, Colombian universities have shifted from using the Pruebas Saber as the sole criterion for admitting students to a more holistic approach that considers other factors such as extracurricular activities and personal statements. This has sparked student debates about the importance of exam scores in determining their future. While some argue that high scores are still crucial for top universities and career opportunities, others believe in developing skills outside academics. 

“I think that the Prueba Saber is important if you’re studying here, although most universities do not require it. However, I do not see the Pre-Saber as important, since it’s not a very good practice,” Jeronimo Mejia, Grade 11, said.

“The exams not only show our proficiency in basic topics such as math and language but more importantly shows the critical thinking and problem-solving skills that we have,” Senior Santiago Restrepo said.

“For students applying abroad like me, the exam is less important since we have already applied and been accepted abroad, we don’t really need the Icfes for anything,” Senior Maria Isabel Tavera said.

How did you prepare for the exam?

It’s a requirement for Colombian schools to prepare their students for the Pruebas, so, certain classes are chosen by the schools to provide tips, information, and activities like the ICFES Cuadernillo that might help students get ready for the exam. Most students at TCS believe they have already learned enough and choose not to invest significant time and effort. However, some still feel unprepared and diligently prepare.

“I don’t believe that one has to study for the Pruebas Saber if the school does a good enough job covering all the topics, but I don’t believe that TCS does that. So I had to study a bit in my case,” Restrepo said.

“If I’m honest, I only did some sections of the ICFES cuadernillos and took into account the tips and tricks that Felipe Naranjo and Erica, our philosophy, and Spanish teachers taught us in class,” Tavera said.

“Apart from what the school is required to help us with, I had no preparation at all,” Senior Jeronimo Pelaez said.

What were the hardest sections of the exam?

According to interviewees, the hardest sections generally had to do with long texts or memory-based questions, typically found in topics like chemistry or politics. Responses to this question, aligned with previous exam averages that demonstrate Calendar B schools like TCS usually struggle with social and natural Sciences sections. The school’s average in 2022 for both social and natural sciences was 61 out of 100.

“The hardest sections were social studies and Colombian politically related questions. Mainly, because we haven’t really gotten in depth into that in school,” Tomas Villegas, Grade 11, said.

“To me, it was mostly chemistry and politics, since they were mostly memory-based,” Tavera said.

“Reading was the hardest for me because it was really long. It wasn’t that challenging, but it was hard not to lose focus,” Pelaez said.

“In my case, the hardest part was critical reading because I’m a very slow reader and I have ADHD. So it takes me a lot of time to read things,” Restrepo said.

What were the easiest sections of the exam?

Patterns in TCS student responses were also visible when asked for the less challenging topics. All Interviewees responded the easiest section was English followed by Math. The 2022 ICFES reports confirmed this correlation by demonstrating that the two highest-scored sections of the exam by TCS students were English and math. Additionally, it is also revealed that Calendar B schools, contrary to their Calendar A counterparts, scored the best in English.

“In my case, math and English were pretty simple. Math was mainly basic logic questions and I think the reason English was easy is due to our school’s outstanding bilingual program,” Villegas said.

“For me, math and English. Why? Personally, I’m in AP Calculus, which helps me improve my logical thinking, and English because of our school, where we use English in our daily life,” Valentina Cabal, Grade 11, said.

“The easiest and fastest part was no doubt the English portion, probably because it’s designed for people who are not native in English like we are,” Tavera said.

In what ways did the Pre-saber prepare you for the Saber?

While students at the TCS do recognize the Prueba Saber has a certain level of importance, debates and mixed opinions about the seriousness of taking the Pre-Saber are more polarized. Some think the Pre-Saber is not as helpful, some don’t even bother taking it, while others think it helps students learn about the actual exam’s structure.

“I don’t think it prepared me in any way because when I did it, it was virtual. So a lot of people took it as a joke. If I’m honest, I didn’t even check my scores. I also don’t think you really need to prepare for the Prueba Saber,” Tavera said.

“To be honest, I don’t know because I didn’t feel it was important or helped me prepare so I didn’t do it,”  Pelaez said.

“The Pre-Saber is not about giving you certain knowledge that will prepare you. At TCS we are very project-based, and we aren’t really adapted to long exams that test resistance so the Prueba Pre-Saber in my opinion helps us understand how the actual exam will look like, the times, questions, strategies, and in what areas we need to prepare,” Restrepo said.

As time goes by more Colombian universities have started to use a more holistic approach to admitting students, which has sparked debates about the importance of the Pruebas Saber exam. Some believe high scores are crucial for top universities and career opportunities, but others question the value of standardized exams.

“Exam results don’t strictly define my intelligence or academic potential. Hard work, determination, and a passion for learning are the true indicators of success,” Villegas said.