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  • Tom Pye
  • Sheffield, South Yorkshire
  • United Kingdom

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Exams are ineffective and should be abolished and replaced with course work

Exams have been used for a long time now as a fast and efficient way of assessing people. However fast and efficient they may be, they are not effective!
They do not show someone's true knowledge or potential, only their ability to memorise the curriculum and apply it on the day to a question that has little meaning.
A piece of course work allows students to demonstrate the same knowledge as they would in an exam but to a real problem that they will face in real life, thus preparing them for a career. One bit of work can even cover and bring together several topics into one problem.
Course work demonstrates the difference between "book smarts" and practical intelligence and is therefore a better method of assessment and is more useful for an employer to understand their real world value.

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  • Jan 27 2012: Being a university student currently, I think there should be a balance between the two, or an integration of them. I do music production and the most useful 'test' of our knowledge of how to produce a band is us actually producing a band.

    For what is effectively a vocational course, this is pretty much coursework and an exam all at once. We have a limited time frame to complete the production in and thus cannot constantly refer back to books or Google-fu, we have to use our existing knowledge to make fast decisions. It's an accurate depiction of our industry, which is why this works.

    Obviously, this wouldn't apply to everything. It could apply to most though. Mathematics, for example. A test to see if you remember the forumlae to solve new problems seems to be the best way of checking you have actually learnt how to do something. Exams that contain a realistic element, such as a timed cooking test or a test to write a newspaper article, are a great way of reinforcing knowledge.

    However, at the risk of some particularly galling flashbacks, the English Literature exam I did for GCSE seemed pointless. We did not have the copy of the book we were meant to be analysing and there was no reason at all for our analyses to be timed. I understand a test of your ability to write something quickly in, for example, a journalism where deadlines must be met, but to analyse a novel in half an hour for no apparent reason seemed like a waste of time and an exercise in prose retention. As you may have noticed, I did not particularly like my GCSE English class.
    • Jan 27 2012: Im also currently at university, Im studying Mechanical Engineering and in the same way that the most affective assessment for you would be to produce a song, the most affective for me would be to have an actual project where I can apply all subject areas to one problem as I would in the real world. This still assesses me in all subject areas and to just as higher difficulty as an exam, but would also allow me to demonstrate my understanding of the subject area.
      I will have a project in my final year but I don't see why this can not be rolled out for all years. If they have the facilities to do it in the final year then they have the facilities to do it in the rest, and if they feel that it is a suitable assessment for a final year student then it is definitely suitable for the rest!

      I cant say I liked my GCSE English either but thats all in the past!

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