The Unreliability Of Exams

Published by alvinauh on

In this season, I have been heavily involved in helping a class perform well in exams. My role in this is only temporary, however, I found a deep reverence and emphasis towards exam results. Exams are seen as the only means towards success in life. However, what if exams are not that reliable to begin with?

In many cultures and countries, exams are still revered as the primary means of success in life. This is because exams are seen as a ticket to a great university. Eventually, that would lead to a good job. The problem is, exams are normally centered around a wide range of subject.

Image result for exams

Image source

Jack Of All Trades…

One of my biggest qualms with exams is that it tests a rather wide range of subject. I understand that mathematics and language subjects are important skills for me to learn. However, not all of us are built to excel in every subject the system throws at us. There are many theories such as the multiple intelligence theory that suggests that many will have an affinity towards a particular subject.

As such, to test a student on all the subjects can be rather unfair. Some students who are just not able to understand mathematics perhaps due to upbringing or genetics, would find themselves unfairly graded. Furthermore, do we really want to label the student who scores at every subject as the best student? Think of it this way, would you rather seek out an expert or a jack of all trades to complete a job for you?

Image result for jack of all trades

Image source

Thus, I think a student who scores well in every subject should be labelled as such, a jack of all trades. I believe it is those who are experts in certain specialized subjects, who will be those who would do well in those fields. Thus, perhaps it is time to change the way we test our students from the quantity of high scores to the quality of their ability.

Rater Reliability & Authenticity In Exams

One of the biggest irony of exams is luck. Believe it or not, the term inter-rater reliability basically points to how each examiner would score a paper the same. Now, we all know that some teachers are strict and some aren’t. However, what if you were unlucky enough to be marked by a strict teacher during your final exams? Your results may not be a true reflection of your capabilities.

Worse, you may end up being labelled as inferior compared to your friend who happened to get  a better marker. As unfair as that may be, exams are meant to prepare one for the future. However, much of the content has not been updated to match recent findings and knowledge. An example is that you probably won’t be able to find anything related to blockchain in most textbooks.

Knowledge, Book, Library, Glasses, Textbook

Image source

As such, with the lack of authenticity of exams, placing a huge emphasis can be rather flawed.

Are We All Doomed?

As such, shall we just ignore and shun exams? Hardly. Not to downplay the importance of exams, but I do want to turn your attention to something that is a little bit more important, the fun of learning.

Throughout my years observing classes, I have seen many students who were groomed from a very young age to excel in exams. Some do pretty well, however, there are some who do break under the pressure of studying.

Laptop, Woman, Education, Study, Young, Computer

Image source

This is because the focus on studying can take the fun out of learning. If the child is not allowed to experience learning, be it a new skill or knowledge, they will truly miss out from something amazing. Do you remember the joy of finally grasping the concept of algebra or learning about how lessons behind the downfall of certain conquerors?

As a child, I hated learning Chinese literature as a child. At a later age, I looked through some of the books, I found it pretty enjoyable. The difference? I hated it when I was learning for exams, but saw it in a different light when there was no exam pressure involved.