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Debate: Exams

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Should examinations be replaced with other forms of assessment?

This article is based on a Debatabase entry written by Debbie Newman. Because this document can be modified by any registered user of this site, its contents should be cited with care.

Contents

Background and Context of Debate:

At present many schools, colleges, and universities assess their students by means of end-of-year written examinations. These can be very stressful and many students fare worse in exams than in other forms of assessment. On the other hand, perhaps it is good training for later life when success depends on being able to deal with stress and perform well on big occasions.

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Argument #1

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Yes

Coursework is a much more genuine assessment of a candidate because it takes into account research, understanding of the issues and ability to express oneself, not just ability to answer a question in a very limited period of time.

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No

Coursework is valuable but should be used in conjunction with exams. A student might answer a question very well given time and help from teachers, family and textbooks, but then be unable to apply what they have learnt to another question coming from a different angle.

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Argument #2

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Yes

Exams test memory more than analysis, creativity, or real understanding. If you have a good memory you can get away with doing very little work throughout the course and still get very good grades.

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No

Things such as open book exams, viva voces, and questions which ask you to evaluate information are not testing merely memory, but your ability to apply your knowledge.

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Argument #3

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Yes

The pressure attached to A’levels and GCSEs is huge and causes many problems. Some students have breakdowns and, in extreme cases, attempt suicide because they cannot handle the pressure, especially with university places relying on grades.

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No

Coursework can involve a lot of pressure as well, especially with the meeting of deadlines. Schools should, and do, teach pupils about relaxation and stress-management for both exams and coursework.

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Argument #4

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Yes

As well as causing personal problems, pressure can lead many bright students to under-perform. Exams test your ability to keep your cool more than they test your intelligence.

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No

Pressure is a fact of life and children must be prepared for it. Pressure only increases at university and in the workplace and we must teach children how to perform well in these conditions rather than protect them from them.

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Argument #5

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Yes

Examination results depend on the opinion of the individual examiner. The same paper marked by two different examiners could get completely different results. This is exacerbated by the short time that examiners spend marking a paper.

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No

Coursework must also be marked by individuals, so the same criticism applies. It is not significant however, as moderation and examiners meetings ensure that papers are marked to the same standards.


Motions

  • This house would abolish exams
  • This house would introduce 100% coursework

In legislation, policy, and the real world:

See also

External links and resources:

Books:

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