As the summer season draws in and the sun peeks out from behind the clouds, out come the text books as the exam period approaches. Along with these, come the long nights of cramming and empty cans of energy drinks as you prepare yourself for the end of year tests. It is fair to say that examinations play a very important role in any student’s life; but are they actually fair assessments of one’s academic ability in a given subject?

For as long as I’ve been alive (and for so long before that), exams have played the most important part of every student’s life, reappearing every summer without fail. Although these series of tests have always been around, are they actually the best way for students to show off their capabilities? Not only do exams cause an incredulous amount of stress and worry in all hard working students, but quite often they result in the most capable students being unable to show off their knowledge, restricted by the pressuring environment of the exam hall or a harshly structured exam paper. Not only this, but more often than one might think, exam papers can be too easy and so prevent the in-depth knowledge of a student from shining through. Perhaps the best example of this would be this year’s AS English Literature exam from AQA. The course is so broad and open; it spans over twenty set texts and poets. It is clear that a very large amount of content is needed to be learnt. You can imagine the frustration of so many students when they flipped over the paper and found that their essay question, equating to half of the overall exam, asked only about the opening sentence of a text!

Exams, students

Rights; Xavi

Examinations have also changed in their timing, no longer are there just modules in January and May but instead all at the end of the school year, soon to be placed at the end of a two year study period for both GCSE and A Level studies. This change places an incredibly large amount of pressure upon students as their entire course rests on often a mere two hour exam. It is clear that what is known as ‘bombing out’ can happen to anyone in any circumstances and with the addition of these exam timings, a student who does will now have to wait at least a year before they can re-sit an exam that, more often than not, they were completely prepared for. It is arguable that this is an effective method at weeding out the students who do not work at all for their studies but unfortunately, this ‘bombing out’ can happen to the best of students and the exam environment seems to encourage this with the strict regulations and dead silence in the hall. Is there any way that we can change exams which would make them less stressful for students and more more fair in their assessments?

The return of modular exams would serve as a more than effective way of doing this as, much like they have done for the previous years, they serve as both a warning sign for the students who have perhaps not worked as hard, and also a confidence boost for those who have worked hard, with the prospect of a re-sit in June also reducing the amount of pressure on each exam. It is arguable as to whether this will make it easier for the students who do no work at all but, in any circumstances, there will always be the students who don’t work as hard, so why should the more hard working students suffer because of this?

At the end of the day, one exam falls so short in unlocking the potential of any student in any given subject. Although students have, so far, just gone on and taken part in the system that we have been taught to follow, that doesn’t make that a correct system and if anything; exams are far from fair in the modern world.

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About the author

Chris Harrison

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Classical Civilisation and English Literature student with a passion for reading and writing. Interested in science & technology and music.

  • Aqilah Vawda

    Spot on about this year’s English Literature exam. Was there any need to read the novels in the first place?