Opinion: Exams - there must be a better way

By Katie Shevlin

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No-one has fond memories of waiting outside the exam room.
No-one has fond memories of waiting outside the exam room.

I think we can all remember the feeling of waiting outside the exam room. And we can all agree it was a horrible time. The clammy hands, the anticipation... hoping and hoping that you'll get the grade that your parents and teachers are expecting. Thoughts run through your mind as you try to focus. What was the name of that author again? Was that process called photosynthesis or osmosis? Is it too late to write that equation on the sole of my shoe?

I was always a last-minute crammer. I would pore over books and test papers in the days and hours and even minutes leading up to an exam, desperately trying to retain the information long enough to complete the paper.

The moment the exam was finished, all the knowledge I had gained for the purpose of passing floated out of my brain, never to be seen again.

Yesterday it was reported that the NZ Qualifications Authority has come under fire for a tough MCAT (maths common assessment task) level one algebra paper, which thousands of Year 11 pupils sat last week and which left some in tears.

Some even walked out with the papers unfinished.

I have long disagreed with examinations as the main method of assessing intelligence. Their standardisation takes away the curiosity that contributes to the formation of well-rounded, critical thinkers.

I have long disagreed with examinations as the main method of assessing intelligence. They take away the curiosity that contributes to the formation of well-rounded, critical thinkers. Exams encourage pupils to learn and teachers to teach always with a target in mind - a grade on a piece of paper.

If a student gets particularly anxious or stressed under pressure, it can have a profound impact on their performance. What good does it do to make students feel like failures?

Exams are a good tool to regularly assess students' capabilities and give them the opportunity to work on any shortcomings. But when it comes to determining a student's next step in education, I believe more care should be taken. In this age of technology, there must be improvements that can be made to the system.

I regurgitated information well enough to do okay in most of my exams, but I was lucky. Say I hadn't done so well - would I have gone to the same university? Been hired for the same jobs? Probably not. I don't think it is fair that a person's career path is shaped by just a few hours.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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