The Academic Giants: British vs American

Which system is better in terms of education, the British meaning the Cambridge examination or the American. It’s a very complicated topic and I would like to share my views on it, having studied under both. I’ve talked to various people who I’ve encountered that have studied under both and seperately under only one. The ones who have studied under both have told me that they prefer the Cambridge examination. Why? They think that you learn more under the CIE system.

Most of the people studying under the Cambridge system that I have asked seem to like the American system better, saying that in it, there isn’t as much emphasis on exams as in the latter. People in the American system say that there is too much homework, projects and what not. In the end, both sides complained (except for the people who studied under both). The question is, why did they complain? Is there really so much to complain about? The answer is perhaps, yes and no. What does that mean though? How can it be both yes and no? Now, under the CIE system, students enter high school, meaning 9th grade, and end up giving a set of exams called O-levels or Ordinary levels. They give these exams in grade 10 or 11 depending on which country you are in.

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The exams are a complete test of all the knowledge that you have gained in 3 years since you entered high school. In most schools, the practice is to take exams based on the knowledge you gain and past knowledge in the form of internal exams. Say you are a student in grade 10. You learned a lot in grade 9 and in your forthcoming exams, the school will not only test what you learned this year but also from last year. This is to make sure you don’t forget what you studied. Then come the A(or Advanced) levels.

These are senior exams and are taken for the higher grades i.e 11th and 12th or 12th and 13th again, depending on your country. In the American system, on the other hand, you have exams, projects, homework and classwork. Oh, and let’s not forget the SATs. All this can be very stressful.

In fact, both systems can put you under a ton of stress. It’s a lot of pressure to perform in the CIEs but also stressful constantly in American schools. Which one is better? Many think it’s a tough call but actually, at least, according to me, its very straight-forward. The main problem with the Cambridge style of exams is that all the emphasis is on examination. That means that your homework, classwork, tests and projects don’t count at all. Imagine going to a school where you put effort in to a project, knowing fully well that it doesn’t count for anything.

What’s the point of doing it then? Many people may be thinking that this really cool but is it? If your tests don’t count, then that means that your grades are totally dependant on those exams. If you mess up in the exams, then your life is ruined. Your grades are damaged. You can’t even undo what you just did in the exam because you have no way to. You can’t make it up by working hard in class the rest of the year because that doesn’t do anything.

In the end, the only thing that affects your grade is the exam. Now, I know most people would be thinking, well there’s a simple solution to that. Just work hard on your exams but the thing is, sometimes people mess up. What if you mess up? What do you do then? Nothing. That’s where the American system shines. Even though, the American way of learning can be tough, it provides you with constant chances to redeem yourself if you err somewhere.

In that way, it can be very accomodating. Ofcourse, the con is that you may have to work harder in class than you have to in the Cambridge based schools. You have to constantly work and the only breaks you get are in the holidays in which you also get holiday homework or projects The SATs are useless. You have to prove your speed in working out problems in it but there are ways or shortcuts arount the exam so it is really just useless. That, I think we can all agree on but the principle method of study in the American system is much better.

Also, the CIEs don’t cater to younger children. There are no exams available for elementary and middle school children which I find strange for such a well recognized system of examination. Now, I think many people would be willing to argue with me regarding both examinations. So, let me just clear up which side I’m taking and why. I told you I studied under both.

I used to study under the American system but now I’m studying under the CIE. I take the side of the American system here. I think some of you had a gut feeling that I was steering in this direction anyway. Why? You may ask. The deciding factor for me was thinking about the rest of my life. I thought that if I stay under the British system, I could simply pass high school by studying for my exams right? I would have to work hard constantly in the American system to pass high school.

Wow, that susks. Wouldn’t it just be simpler to go through with the CIEs even though I would have to study for exams covering 3 years worth of study? Once, I would be through with those, I would be free, for a while atleast. That’s when it hit me. Easier or simpler doesn’t mean better. When I grow up and get a job, my entire life won’t orbit around these one time exams that I will have to study for. It would be about constant hard work and effort.

You can’t get that sort of practical training from the CIEs but the American system works you to your core and prepares you for the sort of life you would possibly have as an adult. The American system prepares you for a life of constant effort where as the Cambridge one prepares you for a one time effort. That is where the two systems differ big time. So, to wrap it up, comparing the pros and cons of both, I think the American system is better than the British one.