"Success doesn't come to you, you got to it." -Marva Collins

Striving for and achieving academic success is the by-product of hard work, determination, and resilience. Students dedicate hours to studying for exams and sacrifice many things so that they can please their parents and be proud of themselves. To measure success, examinations are presented to students from a primary level to a university stage; that's the way it's always been done.

However, it's worth mentioning that recently, many educators and experts in the sector of education have been wondering if standardised examinations are still the most effective way to determine the intelligence of the student and their comprehension of the course material. Multiple intelligences theories and alternative testing methods have been introduced in more progressive schools across the United Kingdom to much success.

So, the question arises, are exams the best way to test students? Let's discover the answer in today's article!

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Are Exams Effective?

the basics of exams
For decades, standard and traditional question and answer tests have been the norm in school systems around the world. (Source: Unsplash)

For many, the uniformity required by exams standardises and negatively impacts the interests, capabilities and knowledge absorbed by students and children. This process of mass standardisation takes away the uniqueness and curiosity of learning that contributes to the growth of well-rounded, critical thinkers that are necessary for the 21st century.

While exams do tend to make students work hard, that doesn't always positively impact learning. For example, the way that exams are structured means that to yield good results, students are required to memorise information and regurgitate it onto exam papers but do not necessarily understand what they are learning.

Also, preparing for exams rarely gives students the time to absorb the information they are studying, which begs the question – does our education system prioritise the comprehension of knowledge or test results?

Whether exams and standardised tests are effective or not, greatly depends on who you ask. Why's that? There are pros and cons to traditional exams and that's why they're still lingering around up to this day.

What are the Pros and Cons of Traditional Exams?

working together to change things
There has been some demand in recent years in how tests are given in the academic classroom. (Source: Unsplash)

In the United Kingdom, and around the world, standardised tests have become the normalised method to determine academic excellence within our education system. However, is exams really the paramount way to test students? Do end-of-year examinations require students to remember and understand the content of their studies?

Many people argue that the uniformity of exams provides an objective and sure way of testing students. Nonetheless, on the other side of things, some would argue that I would counter, however, that uniform testing isn't positive at all since students boast multiple intelligences. Let's take a look at both the pros and the cons of standardised testing in the 2020s.

The Advantages of Traditional Test Taking

To arrive at an effective conclusion, it's necessary for parents, teachers, and education officials to consider both the benefits and the drawbacks of standardised testing. The following are three of the most noteworthy reasons why students of all ages should continue taking traditional exams:

  • They Hold Teachers and Students Accountable: schools and education boards need reliable data to evaluate students' progress and see whether the teachers are sticking close to the structure of the curriculum. Once completed and handed in, standardised examinations let exam boards quickly see whether or not learning objectives are being accomplished. Benchmarks allow education officials to see where some schools have strayed and how things could be improved.
  • They are Extremely Efficient: instead of creating a unique exam for each student based on their learning conditions and specific talents, standardized exams try to include elementary and advanced aspects of the curriculum to collectively test students on what they know and what they reviewed in the school year. Also, for exam boards, standardised tests are evaluated by machines which makes correcting less costly and time-consuming. Through traditional and regulated examinations, the UK Education System is given a big picture of the state of education and how students on average are performing.
  • They Encourage Positive Learning Methods: throughout the entire school year, students understand that they will have an examination at the end of the year that they need to do well on. Therefore, teachers encourage pupils to study diligently, stay organised and assimilate the course material; which are all great study habits.

While there are many more pros to standardised testing such as consistency and clarity, it's worth stating that the three previously mentioned reasons are constantly brought up in defence of traditional test taking.

The Disadvantages of Uniform Tests

In the past decade or so, the appreciation and admiration for standardised testing have declined and many educators are rebelling against the idea of keeping uniform tests at UK-based schools. Why? There are a plethora of possible answers, but the following are the most talked about cons of standardised testing:

  • They Don't Take into Account Individual Intelligence: most educators, parents, and students would agree that standardised tests are too cookie-cutter and uniform for today's modern world. Exams do not take into account that intelligence is a spectrum, not static. For example, students who do not do well under exam conditions are branded as ‘less intelligent' than those who achieve higher exam results which cause many to become dissatisfied and discouraged with the school. Exams leave no room for students with different intellects and instead of letting them grow differently, they try to force them into conformity.
  • They are a HUGE Source of Stress: not only for students but also for teachers, end-of-year exams are a massive source of stress that cause sleepless nights and severe bouts of anxiety. Stress causes pupils to underperform on tests and this reflects poorly on the educator and the exam board; so, everyone loses!
  • They Prioritise 'Test Learning' Rather Than Useful Knowledge: since education boards and government officials need results to see the big picture of how schools are doing in the United Kingdom, teachers are motivated to instruct their pupils to successfully pass exams rather than enjoy learning new concepts that they can actually use in their everyday life. This affects the open-mindedness of students and prevents them from developing reasoning skills.

Unfortunately, it's sad to say that there are even more downsides than the previously mentioned three that have proven to affect children going through exams. So, what can be done to revitalise learning and prevent students from becoming mass-produced test-takers that don't assimilate any valuable information? Take a look at the testing alternatives in the following subheading.

Are There Alternatives to Standardised Testing?

finding ways to test others
Instead of standardised tests, some educators opt for alternative methods of assessment such as oral presentations. (Source: Unsplash)

Since a lot of parents, students and educators feel dissatisfied with the current examination methods used in primary and secondary schools across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, they are constantly searching for solutions.

However, many of us fall silent on what we can do to change it. We frequently find ourselves asking – are there any viable alternatives? Thankfully, there are a few viable testing possibilities that are being used to revamp the education system. Such as? Instead of standardised tests, some education enthusiasts have preferred the following options:

  • Multiple Measures: rather than solely depending on standardized testing, the "multiple measures" method encourages teachers to assess their students based on various projects that they are required to complete throughout the year. Such as? Some educators opt for group or solo presentations of work in front of the class while others prefer surveys and game-based assessments; the choice is the teachers!
  • Portfolios: instead of completing a series of tests at the end of the year, every time a student completes a group project, pop quiz, report, or oral presentation, teachers add this to the student's portfolio. By the end of the school year, the portfolio is quite expensive and this allows examiners to get a more "three-dimensional" picture of students' capabilities.
  • Sampling: one alternative form of testing that students, teachers, and governments are content with is known as sampling. In the most straightforward of definitions, sampling is described as testing a statistically representative group of students instead of each pupil. Though sampling doesn't eliminate standardized testing, it decreases the impact on students and teachers since not all are required to complete examinations. Sampling is much cheaper for education systems and it keeps learning more fun since tests are not the focal point of the teaching process.

In conclusion, change is vital to a healthy society, and right now, we desperately need it within our educational institutions. As we've seen in today's article, there are alternatives out there, but our government needs to be ready to actively facilitate change and integrate new assessment methods into the UK education system before it's too late for modern-day learners.

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Brentyn

Avid movie-goer, reader, skier and language learner. Passionate about life, food and travelling.