Most of us absolutely dread exam season: the stress of anticipating what questions will come up, if your mind will go blank as soon as you see the paper or how slowly the hours will drag by. But ultimately isn’t an exam just a glorified memory test?
Across England exams are the main method of testing students on their academic abilities. Nerves control me during an exam, making me panic and subsequently, I begin to rush essays. Although I am working on my exam technique and how I deal with the pressure and the intense circumstances that seemingly characterise the situation, there still remains the weeks of stress that build up leading to the exam. You only need to walk into the libraries on campus and you can sense the feelings of panic and urgency overwhelming students everywhere.
Exam stress normally leads to me losing my appetite, having breakouts and not sleeping for days. A trusty phone call from my mum and her timeless cliches that I’m sure we have all been told by our parents thousands of time ‘you can only do your best’ and ‘it’ll all come back to you in the exam’. No matter how much you nod your head and smile at them, you know deep down you really should have started revising sooner. Every semester I promise myself that I will revise from the moment lectures begin yet predictably by the second week, coursework kicks in and my revision notes have taken a back seat.
I do not believe my scores accurately depict the type of student that I am. However, regardless of how much I moan I understand the necessity of them. But I simply ask whether we can include other ways of assessing student’s knowledge. Projects, presentations or coursework are other options that could help to make assessments fair and focus on other strengths of students.
Exams require students to regurgitate facts after spending weeks frantically memorising them but not always absorbing the information. An exam tests the student’s knowledge on the day and does not take into consideration any external factors that may impact their performance. Other factors like personal issues or illness are typically neglected in playing a part in the overall marking of the paper. There is always the option of applying for extenuating circumstances but these can be difficult and complex systems that create even more unnecessary stress and then the likelihood of acceptance is a further issue. Surely a continuous set of tests throughout the semester will help to ease the pressure on the ‘big day’ and lead to better results?
So, although I sit here having just completed my last exam and a free woman (only until the next load of work hits) with pointless random facts circling my head about chimp communication systems and how dolphins speak to each other I question whether the education system relies too heavily on this exam based approach and if we should find alternative ways to assess our knowledge.