Karthik CR

student in Information Science,

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Do you think Exams are the only way to test students/Person?

Are exams really a tool to test knowledge of a person?
Exams are said to be the means of monitoring and scaling the academic performance of students.
Students learn a subject for a whole year and write a exam for just 2-3 hours is it really enough to test the skills of a student?
Anyone who has a good memory power can pass a exam so is he considered to be a knowledgeable person in that subject?

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    Sep 8 2013: At my school (secondary- aged 11-16) I see students struggling with the notion, purpose and process of testing. As the emphasis is moving away from modular testing towards terminal exams (goodness me, the language itself must make children fearful!). We are finding that a child's working memory and their ability to show discipline in the preparation and execution of tests are challenging skills to instil. As teachers, we must find the balance between inspiring a love of learning and the need to past tests; that’s tricky, to say the least. I am lucky to have talented and dedicated staff, none of whom (as far as I’m aware) entered the profession to help children pass tests and do know the constantly shifting goal posts make the teaching professional a tough one to endure when testing is a constant subject of debate. My staff are assessing students all the time and I believe the most revealing and useful discoveries about a child’s potential do not occur in an exam hall, but rather in the rich daily dialogue between people who love learning.
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    Sep 6 2013: Tests have in my opinion at least always been a means to measure a person's accumulated knowledge memorized but never the actual knowledge learned.

    It's a means to garner good scores for school funding, I have A.D.D. an have been horrid on tests, yet I knew the material so much so i helped others understand the subject matter even though I would fail the tests, an they would pass, interesting there isn't it?

    This is why you can have a person with a several degrees who really doesn't know much.

    You want a real test, have the person demonstrate the subject matter at hand, instead of recite something from memory.

    Math is a good example of the in between since you are shown by memory / visuals ways to solve one type of problem, then presented with another same type problem using the same tactic to solve. It uses the memory of what was taught with the demonstration of what is learned while showing the key points that need focusing / help with.

    A Video game could be a interesting tool to use as a test, as long as it was forcing a user to demonstrate the subject matter to solve a puzzle or level to move to next one or even win the game an pass the test, try an find someone who cannot take that kinda test.
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    Sep 8 2013: Exams test for at least two very different things: how well you know the material, and how good you are at taking tests. I was generally good at taking tests in school. With a good short-term memory, cramming worked well for me, but a week later the crammed material was like dew in the sun. So are we really interested in how good someone is at the skill of taking tests? I don't think so, and the solution may be to make all tests unannounced. Tests should also be of the essay type, asking the student to reflect the depth of his/her knowledge and its application. This takes more time for the teacher, and there's the problem of subjective evaluation, but I think that's life: we need to depend on the teacher's evaluation to properly assess the student's progress.

    Tests - particularly in the pre-teen years - should serve one function: to show where the student needs strengthening. It's easy to lose sight of what should be the single focus of our schools: to ensure that all the students learn the material they need to know before moving on. Some students will learn material "A" in one week, others will require four weeks. Our schools now grade the quicker learner higher than the slower learner. That's fundamentally wrong. It's irrelevant how long it takes someone to learn - it's only important that he/she learn. Therefore the typical school program by semesters, where you are expected to learn from A to H in one semester, needs to be changed to adapt learning to the child, because our interest should be that they all learn, and not to give rewards for quicker learning.

    This would require wholesale changes in our school programs, and a great many more teachers. We could do it if we use some of the money currently spent on preparing to kill unknown enemies. Turn the military budget into an education budget.
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    Lejan .

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    Sep 6 2013: It is not the only way, but good enough to continue most of our flawed economical system, which does not need anyone as a person in general.
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    Sep 5 2013: If, please notice I said "IF", the goal is to evaluate whether or not a lesson has been learned the method chosen to accomplish such an evaluation depends on the lesson. Lesson #1: How to perform a somersault. To evaluate whether the lesson was learned should we have student perform a somersault, or should we ask the student to answer a series of written questions about how to turn a somersault? Lesson #2: How to convert speed data from Km/hr to Mi/hr. To evaluate whether the lesson was learned or not would we have the student drive a prescribed course in a car which indicates speed in Km/hr only, then repeat in a car indicating Mi/hr? Or, would we require the student to answer a simple written question?
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    Sep 9 2013: usually you have to pass a lot of exams during the year, not just one at the end, so presumably all these exams together give a good picture.

    I would think the professor knows how to make a good exam. In some fields, straight memorization would be important, so an exam that uses memory would be appropriate. In other fields, you must problem-solve or write essays, so this kind of exam is appropriate.
  • Sep 6 2013: Depends. What are you testing for? The ability to remember and recite content knowledge? Then yes, not a bad way to do it. The ability to evaluate a large number of people in a short time frame using standardized testing, AMAZING! Demonstrate a skill or actual understanding of the content taught at a deeper level, well, exams are just one piece of the puzzle then.
  • Sep 6 2013: No.

    In my academic life, we had quizzes, tests, and exams to supplement other work such as homework sets, papers, reports, and projects. Assessment of student performance (Quizzes, tests, and exams) carried different weight with a final grade and had different purposes. Quizzes were usually given to see if a reading assignment was done or if some small point was understood. Tests generally would generally check to see if some section of material was understood, and exams were used to see if the student could put the section concepts together and understand the material presented as a whole body of knowledge. Quizzes, tests and exams were used in conjunction with the other work to assess a student's performance in a particular subject.

    As you point out, someone that has been exposed to the material, understands what has been presented, and with a good memory can generally do well on most tests. This type of test might be an indication rote learning has taken place. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learning). A comprehensive exam might be a better indication that meaningful learning has taken place, but much depends on the nature of the questions asked by the exam (as Edward points out below). Does the question ask you to remember something, or use what you have learned and apply it to solve a problem, draw conclusions about a situation, or demonstrate how new thoughts or skills associated with this knowledge has somehow increased your overall understanding of the subject matter?

    In most of my classes, final exams were an opportunity for the teacher to assess if meaningful learning had taken place through the school year or during a particular course. Grades are the way most academic performance is measured, but as you transition from student to worker, your job performance becomes a bigger indicator of your relevant skills and abilities than your grades, particularly the quality of the products you produce.
  • Sep 6 2013: We are measure so many way just by talking with a student you can also guess where she stands So there are subject exams, standardized exams, projects, and observation. How do we weitgh all this etc. etc. Maybe exams are starting to look good after this.
  • Sep 6 2013: Yes and no - to test the basics, exams are ok but to test knowledge, problem solving, critical thinking, you need discussions, papers, presentations and projects. A lot of discussion is necessary.
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    Sep 5 2013: Tests and exams as we know them, especially standardised testing, are artificial and a very poor way to measure anything.

    Bear in mind that I am talking about younger students. I imagine that, at university level, like most things, it comes down to convenience and cost.

    Considering those two elements, then they probably are useful because it's nice and easy for the purposes of measurement from a bureaucratic point of view.

    But in terms of measuring "added value" (ugh, horrible term) for the learner in question? No, they are a terrible method of assessment.
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    Sep 5 2013: Have you ever actually heard anyone claim that exams are the only way to assess what students know? Are you saying that in India there are no assessments of learning for an entire year and then a single test is given?! This is very much not the practice in the United States. Student progress here is assessed in a variety of ways all year long. Some teachers give an end of year test and some don't.

    Kids who are applying to college do take a test typically a year before they graduate that tests very basic reading comprehension, basic math through second year algebra, and writing. It is one factor in college admissions. As in India, students aiming to apply to competitive colleges have taken much more math than is represented on the exam.

    There are also end of year tests given at some grades that are designed to give a picture of how the whole school is doing in math or something, but that is not part of the record a college would see and doesn't affect students grades in their courses.
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      Sep 5 2013: Here in india students are also given tests on a regular basis but at last only the exam score is given on the certification.So what we score at the final exam at the end of the year really counts .
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        Sep 5 2013: I see. Are the regular tests through the year and at the end the only ways you are assessed, or do you also write essays and papers, do science projects and lab reports, and so forth?

        I expect based on India's abysmal performance on the PISA exam, pretty near the bottom in math and science, you have a great chance of seeing major reforms! I know in the US, our mediocre performance in math, 31st of 73 countries, has spurred major effort in that area. Interestingly, the US was 17th of 74 in reading last time around, better than Sweden, France, Denmark, and the UK and 23rd of 74 in science, again better than Norway, Denmark, France, and Sweden. But the popular impression in the US is that the US is worst in everything. Popular impressions are very effective here in getting school boards to take change seriously.
  • Sep 5 2013: Exams aren't meant to test knowledge so much as they're there to get students to study in the first place.
    No exam, no one cares. Its as simple as that.

    As a means of testing out knowledge, I agree they're awful. You can't condense down a school year or semester's wroth of knowledge into a 2-3 hour test. You can't even sample it properly.
    Again though, that's not the point.

    That's why most workplaces for example, don't test potential employes; at least, not in the educational system sense. They interview them after a selection process based on their resume, because that's how you actually try to figure out how much a person knows (among other things).
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      Sep 5 2013: But getting in the selection process of these companies is again based on how much marks we have scored right?
      • Sep 5 2013: Partially, yes. Tests may not reflect your knowledge very efficiently, but they're still a better indicator than nothing at all.
        Of course, a lot of companies care a lot more for your job history than for your test scores, and for good reason.

        I do however stress that the main reason the tests are there is to get people to study in the first place.