My Biggest Problem with Exams
My biggest problem with exams isn’t the fact that we have to pass them in order to advance in our academic career. It isn’t the immense pressure placed on students in order to get high grades (a prime example of this is getting into the medical course at UM). It also isn’t the sheer amount of content and information we need to take in so we can scrap a pass.
It’s the fact that in the long run, this is done for nothing.
Before I’m dragged in the comments by academics- I don’t think exams should be scrapped. I have personally cringed at the fact that students no longer require passes in all 3 of mathematics, english, and maltese in order to get into JC. I believe exams are important, I genuinely do. Not just to ensure that you have understood what you studied and to show you are competent in that subject, but for all their indirect benefits too.
Regardless of whether you become a surgeon or a footballer, everyone will experience working under pressure at some point in their life. Exams prepare you for that from a young age, by teaching the notion that if you prepare earlier for a possibility, you are less likely to be phased by it in the long run. They teach you how to deal with failure too- I’m sure everyone has sat for an exam at some point, expected to do well, only to find out they did not. If you fail an exam, even though it’s disheartening, you can sit for it again. This teaches us that failure can be an option, because in life we are all going to fail in one thing or another whether we like it or not.
So why did I assert earlier that exams are for nothing?
We study, cram, and worry in the weeks leading up to the exam, sit for the exam on the day, and breathe a sigh of relief if we find out we’ve passed on results day, having practically forgotten most of what we studied. This begs the question- is this system truly effective?
Exams in university are meant to prepare you for your chosen career- the content being assessed is generally content we will use on the job. So if this is the case, what is the point of simply giving students a mark and a grade? Sure, obtaining a good grade in a tough exam feels amazing yet at the same time, haven’t you ever felt that a simple number isn’t a fair representation of your efforts?
One wouldn’t know what they’ve done wrong or be aware of what they actually knew as opposed to what they got right by sheer chance, especially if the exam consisted of multiple choice questions.
Exams need a reform. A solitary mark/grade will not truly help students in the long run. Whilst it might be logistically impossible to give feedback to every single student, there are other ways and means to ensure exams are not solely done for the sake of progressing to the above year. University/School papers should be returned to students- a practice that is often not done as questions are repeated from year to year.
At the very least, a copy of the exam could be handed out so students are aware of what was asked in the exam and can refer to it once results come out, which is often a long time after they actually sat for the exam.
If exams are a part of our life, we should ensure they are truly serving their purpose- scrapping them will cause harm, but doing them for the sake of doing them will also harm students in the long run.