Exams … by @emma_rachels

Have you got that frustrating feeling...?

I’m starting this blog with an inspiring video about how exams are seen by students today. For me this summarises exactly what is wrong with exams and how they don’t teach students the true value of education.

This is a re-blog post originally posted by Emma Cree and published with kind permission.

The original post can be found here.

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Having just finished my exam term I am left with a frustrating feeling, I revised hard and felt I understood ALL of the content BUT the exam doesn’t highlight this. As I walked out of the exam hall for the last time this year I could hear snippets of what my fellow course mates were feeling.

‘It’s just a memory test’

‘I knew Piagets theory really well but it didn’t come up’

‘I ran out of time’

‘Thank goodness those questions came up its all I revised’

These just show how exams do not represent what we know or how we look at things. Exams should not be based upon how much we can store in our short term memory they should be about how we think about this information and can relate it to real life – surely this is more beneficial for later life? For example I know many students who don’t revise until 8pm the night before the exam and go to revise in the library until 8am the morning of the exam and manage to get a first. Surely this highlights how someone with an incredible short term memory can do better than someone who’s been revising for months. Exams should highlight intellect and understanding of content rather than rote learning and memory.

Furthermore a module in my university for example is 10 hours in a lecture theatre and 2 hours workshop yet an exam may only focus on 40% of this and then you choose from this the essay you will write. This is hardly representative of the module as a whole. It makes it easier for students to selectively revise topics that haven’t come up in a while and ignore the rest. Yes they may get a high grade but what about the rest of the module. How is this representative of their knowledge overall. Again, it become a memory test of the topics students know ‘most’ well.

In psychology it is drummed into us that we must show evidence of deeper thinking/ critical analysis to show the examiner that we understand the content and can look at it through a unique way. First of all when you are 1 out of 270 students sitting the same exam it is very hard to come up with something unique. Secondly, if someone had a unique point that is Nobel prize winning yet run out of time or forget to mention it in the exam through the pressure of writing anything down should it mean they are any less worthy of a first for example. Ordinarily exa,s last for approximately an hour and a half with two essays. In this time you are expected to pick an essay choice remember the background content, theories, studies and experiments and the deeper thinking element which is critical for a higher grade x2. This is an awful lot to do in a small amount of time and so something vital is bound to be missed. If more time was allocated to avoid the pressure and rush of exams would students do better in not missing vital information that they kick themselves about as soon as they close their exam booklet.

I have felt that during the exam term this blog really helped me capture what I enjoyed in my course and made me think more deeply about the content – I hope this came across! If an examiner marked this blog over my exam pieces I would probably do far better. At the end of my last exam – cognition in infants and children which happened to be my favourite with a heavy heart. I had written non stop but just know I didn’t do it justice in comparison to what I actually know. I included all the relevant material taught to us in the lecture but this isn’t enough I ran out of time to show my deeper understanding of the topic which would have gained me the higher mark.

I am not saying that I would get a higher mark with more time I just feel it is an interesting point. Are all of the league tables and intelligence tests skewed by this unfair testing method. Therefore how is this fair to input this method of performance into students. A result given months after the exam may be marked badly due to running out of time or difficult questions but this will be forgotten and the mark could be believed to be how they really performed rather than a poor measure of their true knowledge. This in turn could enforce self ful-filling phrophecies (performing to a believed standard enforced by others even if this is not representative of your true ability) if so examinations must be reviewed in order to stop students underperforming due to factors besides their knowledge.

You can read other posts via Emma by clicking here, and follow her on Twitter…


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