Exams: The Perverse Chinese Ancients’ Gift to Mankind

I think the ancient Chinese may have derived great and perverse pleasure from torturing their young with the introduction of examinations into their country and subsequently, to the world. While there are numerous positive aspects to the concept of examinations that the Chinese so generously bestowed upon the unassuming world so many centuries ago, I’m sure that the many who suffer at the hands of examinations (a majority) would agree with me if I said those ancient Chinese dudes should be brought back to life and tortured to death.

Examinations, or as we so ‘lovingly’ call them, exams, is something that student populations would very much like to do without but cannot. For one, no one is leading (willing to lead) the much-delayed campaign for the eradication of exams. (If I’m wrong and someone is actually working on it, I would LOVE to join them). The other, more sensible reason is, exams are an essential part of the arsenal of a teacher. It is admittedly a great tool to test a student’s knowledge and understanding of the subject, or in other words, an ideal way to find out whether the student has taken into one ear and thrown out the other what the teacher has taught him.

However, it is by no means a perfect tool. It is extremely inaccurate as it merely tests whether a student has memorized the facts and the concepts, rather than internalized them and are able to use them in a practical situation.

As an aspiring future lecturer, I have constantly attempted brainstorming for new ways to test knowledge. Of course tests the way to go. And assignments. I find them to be much more enjoyable not to mention easier than cramming for a three hour test. Anyway, I have always found myself hoping that there was a hitherto undiscovered method that we could adopt to test students by testing both their knowledge levels as well as how well they could apply this knowledge in practical settings. And all I have come up with is to have both a written and oral exam. But this would only add to the already mile-high costs of conducting examinations and may prove to provide inaccurate information on how much the students have absorbed.

The issue as I see it is that none of these provide an ideal way to measure a student’s knowledge accurately at all. If it’s a nervous student, definitely not. I know that from experience. Being very shy and nervous in classrooms, I have ample experience of failing to answer questions accurately (both in class and in tests), even though I could have written a T-Rex-sized thesis on the answer the question required. Yes. It’s that bad. I get so nervous with everyone’s eyes on me that I sometimes forget how to talk and when I’m really really nervous, I have noticed that I have even forgotten my name.

But the fact of the matter is, conducting examinations is a a pretty sucktastic method to test a student’s knowledge but it’s all we’ve got. We should probably ditch the whole classroom concept and engage in home-schooling and self-studying. Worked just fine for some of the greatest minds of the earlier centuries.

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