Exams need a rethink

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Exams have been part of our academic and educational institutions for millennia. They are the favoured means test at the end of the academic year that give a clear indication of the level of a student's work and whether they know enough about the tested subject. But this is the twenty-first century; a time when wars are fought with remote-controlled drones; a time when breaking news can go global within minutes. So are these ancient ideas of the exam past their sell-by date?

The 'all-knowing' stooges in our subject departments will reliably convince us that a closed, essay based exam will give us the best reflection of the level of our work and our knowledge in the field.

In these scenarios, the only thing exams are testing is how good a person's memory is. All the results will show is a list of people whose brains work more effectively at remembering what other people say.

It will always reflect more positively on those who perform better in this way, but not everybody does. The rest of us will simply be left to look pretty clueless, regardless of the standard of our essay-writing or academic ability in research.

Open exams, on the other hand, provide the level playing field that is much more applicable in academia. The realistic world of using unlimited electronic resources shows a more efficient way to collect the data. This is now the norm in University research, so why hasn't undergraduate study followed suit?

Let's put this into context. I didn't pass my driving test by sitting in a room where drinking a different coloured liquid is an 'academic offence'. To be able to drive, you don't tell an examiner how you think people drive from what you remember, you actually have to go out and show them you can do it (although, in my case, all I showed the examiner was that we couldn't get out of the car park).

This is why I am much more in favour of the timed open exam, like the 48 hour ones seen in subjects like history (which seems to be the only thing that history students ever have to do). Give me a day or two to throw together a researched essay with my own critical analysis and I will be able to show (or not show) the academic skills this University should expect from its students. Put me in a silent room for a few hours and I ask me to remember eighty different things about one module and I will melt faster than one of Salvador Dali's clocks.

Furthermore, universities now have the technological know-how to spot any sign of cheating, so this issue is no longer relevant in an institution where a breach of academic integrity is an offence punishable by public hanging.

This aged idea of the exam needs to go, or is such a change just too much effort for our departments? Pull your finger out, York.

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1 Comment

Amrita kumari Posted on Thursday 22 Oct 2020

Bihar univecity muz Graduation 3rd year exam date pls reply me


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