Friday, 5 November 2010

Should we banish examinations?

It was a suggestion made recently by a science professor at the University of Adelaide, Bob Hill.
He suggested that examinations were old-fashioned and out of date. Indeed he went as far as to suggest that they may have been out of date for forty years or more. He may be right but I suspect that examinations are not going to go away just yet.
There were more views on the issue in an article in this morning's paper. The views varied but I was inclined to agree with the student who said that cramming testing of an entire year of work into two weeks of three hour examinations was probably not a terribly efficient or accurate means of measuring what an individual has managed to learn.
Writing an essay never presented a serious problem for me. It apparently did for many other students.
A lecturer once gave me an overnight extension to get an essay retyped after I had shown him I had actually written it. Other students were frequently given much longer extensions. I knew better than to ask for one. It would not have been granted. I was lucky to get that one even though I had unexpectedly had to care for a class of five year old children for a week on top of my studies.
Most, perhaps all, lecturers prefer examinations. They are able to mark all the year's work in one fell swoop. There is less to mark in a three hour paper than a series of 2,500- 3,000 word essays.
Examinations in the remote past used to be oral. It was not possible to sharpen your quill and find enough parchment etc etc. I have a sneaking suspicion that they may have been the most effective form of examination too. It is much harder to fluff and fudge and fail to answer the question if you are facing your questioner.
I will eye off all the hundreds of university students heading in to the adjacent hall this morning with some sympathy. I will remember my father's words in his one letter he wrote to me each year when I was a student away from home. The letter was full of good advice about how to tackling the exam paper, reading the questions AND answering them but there were also the words "may you do as well as you deserve to do".
I am glad I am not going to do any more examinations.


Melinda Szymanik said...

I have usually done fairly well in exams. I don't mind them. I am a recidivist student currently part way through a diploma in children's literature. One downside of exams is getting only a 'result' rather than the feedback one often gets on an essay or assignment. Its good to learn from my mistakes - an exam cannot necessarily give me that.

cheers, Melinda

catdownunder said...

What a wonderful thing to be a recidivist student for though Melinda!