Why Examinations Aren’t a True Representation of a Student’s Knowledge

Examinations aren’t a true representation of a student’s knowledge in a particular subject.

They don’t reflect intelligence. They don’t reflect a student’s capability. They don’t reflect the kind of person someone is. They just show the ability a student has to memorise lines from textbooks. Pressures such as time restrictions and peer success, also play a huge part in determining how well a student does. Parents pushing their kids to do their best, sleep deprivation and increasing stress levels also influence the mental capability of a student on the days leading up to an important examination.

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In most cases, students all around the country answer the same questions, under the same conditions. However, some people react to these questions and these conditions differently. Some students achieve better in more practical situations while others are in their element writing an end-of-year examination.Exams end up being memory tests not tests of ability or knowledge. Parents, teachers and essentially every adult out there, talks about the “real world” but in the “real world” are we really going to be sitting down taking three hour exams? I highly doubt so. Wouldn’t you rather be going out into the “real world” with the confidence of knowing how to speak to a employer or what to say in a job interview? Are your employers going to be focusing on purely your grades or whether or not you’re a well-rounded person? You may be a top-achieving student with full marks in every examination you have sat, but do you have the ability to hold a proper conversation? There is so much pressure for high academic achievement that we aren’t focused on what is more important for the “real world”- being a good person to begin with.

The world needs good human beings who care about one another not just smart, geniuses (though a few of those wouldn’t hurt). No examination will ever fully scope the ability of a student and under pressure some students may fail miserably even though they have memorised a whole textbook. In another 5 years, I see a world with no more paper-based examinations but rather electronic versions. We are already increasingly starting to introduce electronic versions of exams into our education system and by the time the next generation enters high school they will no longer have to worry about their pens running out in the middle of an exam but rather whether their laptop is fully charged or not. Basic life skills should be taught at home but reinforced at school.

We need more performance-based assessments that test the skills that we need for every day life. In another 10 years time are we going to be worried about the periodic table of elements or how to pay off taxes efficiently? We need to know how to manage our finances properly and from an early age. We need to know how to hold a sufficient conversation but at the same time know how to small-talk. Conversing with employers, employees, friends, spouses, neighbours and acquaintances will occur on a daily basis so the ability to do so is necessary. We need to learn about the government and how our country works. How to use and save money effectively.

We need to know about sex and relationships. How to leverage romantic and professional relationships, how to network and make connections. We need to know how to write succinct, clear emails. Negotiation skills, leadership skills, presentation skills, and basic survival skills are all a vital part of what we need to know for the “real-world”. People may argue that our teachers do not have the resources, knowledge or ability to teach such skills to students.

But I argue that if we slowly begin to reinforce these basic life skills at school instead of putting so much pressure on examinations then we would have a high-achieving, well-rounded cohort of students who are able to go into the “real-world” with the confidence needed to achieve great things.