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If there is one thing Year 11 is synonymous with, it’s exams (GCSEs!) However, that is also true for the next year and the year after that and the year after at university … and for all those words … Phew! It is almost like academics translate to exams.
The role of exams in learning is, perhaps, one of the most conflicted topics out there. On one hand, giving exams is a very rational take on gauging understanding of students, a parameter to infer where a student stands. However, an exam could also mean sweaty palms and palpitations with high levels of stress for most students. Since there doesn’t seem to be an alternate route to “judging performance” than exams, we could move towards a well-structured exam review. Instead of a single high-pressure event called exam, we could have multiple tasks/assessments and opportunities to demonstrate what students know and associate it with “real life problems” instead of having a superficial understanding.
We could have more project based tasks that draw on students’ creativity and interests. In addition to considering exam grades as a component to judge a student’s abilities, the gradual improvement in grades should also be considered. It can be very harmful if the capabilities of a student are reduced to merely a number.
This is where the objective of exams is diminished to a ranking system where students then start perceiving education as a completion based “episode” rather than a timeline of progress and conceptual learning. I do understand that there is a very thin line separating the two approaches that I mention – not only for us students but also for those who set our exams. I do hope that we move closer to a learning-conducive environment that replaces the usual exam stress with constructive learning opportunities.