Sunday, November 09, 2014

The point of exams?

Having sat through hundreds of exams in my lifetime, be that SATs, GCSE's, A Levels, University exams, pre-job tests, and general tests and exams throughout school, I have started to wonder what exactly the point of these exams are.

After watching THIS video, these thoughts just got even more structured.

What exactly is the main point of an exam? It’s not really a test of what you know, it’s more of what you remember. Ever had an argument and remembered a great comeback a few hours later? This is what an exam is like for me. No matter how hard I study, revise or force myself to attempt to remember things, I get a mental block spanning the length of my exam and end up more stressed than I was before I sat in my seat.

This sort of thing really hit me when it came to my GCSE Maths exams – although this was a good 5 or so years ago, this definitely still applies to exams today. I physically cannot do maths at all. As soon as I see a sum or equation, each separate number merges into one and I usually end up angry at myself or in tears. I managed to just scrape though my GCSE Maths with a C, and I still wasn't happy.

Although maths is a compulsory subject until the end of year 11 (16 years old) in the UK, surely there will be a massive change and gap between those who have minds more orientated towards numerical reasoning, to those with a more verbal and literal brain, such as myself.

On top of this, about 99% of things you learn for an exam have no application in the outside world. How many times have you had to use something you learned in maths in your school years? Yes, I get that some professions might actually use all of these things, but not everyone who goes through school will become an engineer.

Personally, I find literacy exams a bazillion times easier than anything with even a single number in. I can write for days about almost anything as long as I have a tiny bit of background information on it. Want me to write about the hidden meaning of a poem I have never read before? Sure, give me 10 minutes to read it. Want me to write about the history of a country I have never heard of before? Cool, just give me a few basic facts. Want me to fill a book with absolutely anything that comes into my head? Fantastic!

How can exams expect to test absolutely every individual who passes through the education system in a fair way? Like me, one person might be academically good at one sort of subject, and then be less than average on another.

This also applies to those who excel at art. Take my sister for example. She has an incredible eye for art, and can draw absolutely anything in a matter of hours. In fact, I am going to include some of her artwork below.

She claims, although I dispute this to a certain extent, that she struggles with slightly more academic subjects. This actually ended up stressing her out in her GCSE’s last year, because she excels at art, she didn't think she would do as well in her other subjects.

Although I understand that the introduction of subject choices in GCSE’s allow this to be slightly eliminated, and doesn't massively affect anyone until they can completely choose every subject for A Level exams, this doesn't stop the stress, pressure, and general being a pain in the ass of exams themselves.

Anyone who knows me will probably be reading this either shaking their heads, or feeling a bit confused as to why I am writing about exams because I “got good grades”, “passed my exams”, and “have nothing to complain about”, but that didn't come without a lot of hard work, stress, tears, and me being general all round hell.

Why should exams put so much pressure on one person whilst they’re still young when it’s very rare a job you apply for 10 years down the line won’t bother to ask for them, or only ask for a select few grades? Or when they become less of a fair exam and more of a memory test? Or when they don’t test you fairly based on which way your brain processes information.

There is so much pressure on kids these days to get good grades, to get good jobs.

The truth is that you don’t need a degree to do something you love, being good at something and enjoying every moment of it will make you richer than money ever could, and a good education doesn't make you better than someone who doesn't have that privilege.

The world is your oyster, so don't let a random letter next to a subject define you for the rest of your life. If you enjoy something, go and do it. 

The sky is the limit, and no one is going to stop you.

So, what do you think? Could exams be more individually orientated, do you think they’re fine as they are, or maybe you think that everything I have said is just a load of crap.

Keep swimming,