Who Needs Exams?

We’ve just passed the time of year that students of all ages start panicking. It tends to also correspond with the time that students get uncontrollably engrossed with a TV programme that has over four series, which they have never gotten around to watching before and decide to start from series one, episode one and then watch about eight episodes a day. Exam time is not fun and who on earth decided that it would be a good idea to give us a four week holiday right before they start. Okay, for some people, that month is an ideal time to start revision, but for others, it’s time to catch up with friends and family and maybe even go and visit that person you know who’s doing a semester abroad in Paris for a week or go on the university ski trip.

Exams seem to be all about learning a formula and testing how good your memory and concentration is. If you haven’t worked at all from September to March, it doesn’t really matter, as long as you have to ability to cram and recite facts from a text book or memorise quotes from authors, literary critics or philosophers. If people have been attentive and contributed in their seminars, handed in all of their formative essays and arranged meetings to discuss their progress with their tutors, they will not necessarily receive better marks than students who have missed every lecture, but look on their university website to find some secondary reading to regurgitate.

It is likely that the people who cram in a lot of the information right before tests or exams will not be able to remember it by the time the summer comes around. The majority of students are also made to write thousands of words in timed conditions, by hand, which is something that they will probably never have to do again in their lives. I am sure that most universities would be able to facilitate all students who wanted to do their exams on computers, allowing them to write faster and avoid cramp in their wrists, as well as being able to go back and neatly change their points without having to draw asterisks all over the page and scribble over irrelevant points.

It has been proven that people have different learning styles and not everyone works well under pressure. If a mark was devised from a student’s overall progress throughout the year, taking class participation and coursework into consideration, surely this would be a fairer judge of their academic ability. Yes, it would mean that students have to work at a consistently high level over the course of the year to receive a good grade or at least work well for the majority of the year, but surely this would be better than the horrendously stressful few months that students have to go through before summer. It may also mean that students would be encouraged to spend more time with their tutors, which is something that can unfortunately be lost in the transition from sixth form or college to university.

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