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Why Exams Should Be Abolished?

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    Abstract Since its official occurrence in the 19th century, school exams have been the only known and approved way to test students’ knowledge and evaluate their performance. The word exam in general means a test. People could be tested in almost everything in their lives. In my opinion, human beings were born to be tested till their death. The results of their test will be revealed in the Judgment day and everyone will be awarded or punished according to those results.

    Many people think that exams are the most appropriate and fair way to evaluate students’ progress and determine their intelligence. On the other hand, others would vote for abolishing exams and replacing them with more practical and skill-oriented methods to evaluate their students’ performance. I strongly support the idea of exams abolishment and in this paper I will present my reasons.

    The school exam is a countable number of questions in what students have been taking through the school year to test their knowledge and as a result evaluate their progress. Passing or failing exams determines if students will go through to the next year or repeat their courses. In my opinion, examination in its general term existed before the humankind. Allah tested his angles, Adam and Eve before they came down to earth and produce the humankind. The whole point behind our existence is to test us and if we succeed we go to paradise but if we fail the test we go to hell.

    Therefore, the exams principle existed before education itself. The existing form of examination has appeared in the 19th century. Before that century, education was for pure learning and no exams were performed. In England, boys in school took their first exam in 1858 and girls were introduced to the concept of exam in 1867 (Cambridge Assessment, 2008). Questions at that time were revolving around religion and history. Students were also tested on mathematics, physics, biology and chemistry but questions in those subjects were easy and straightforward.

    Some people support exams and assure their importance in evaluating students’ progress in a specific subject. Others think that students’ progress could be measured using other effective methods rather than exams. In my point of view, exams should be abolished from school systems as they are more harmful and meaningless to students than beneficial. Supporters of exams said that students need an external motivation to do better every time they get awarded in form of grades. They claim that psychologically external motivation enhances students’ existing internal motivation.

    In other words, if students were awarded for doing good in exams in a form of grades, they will be motivated to learn more as they self-evaluate themselves every time. This is true to some extent. However, what would happen to their internal motivation, learning, if they were over-awarded externally? Could too much external motivation diminish their internal motivation? Twain’s hypothesis stated that if a person was rewarded for an activity he/she loves and enjoys doing, he/she will become less interested in doing that activity than before (Cited in Kassin, Fein & Markus, 2011).

    Over-justification of learning by giving too much exams could be dangerous and might undermine students’ intrinsic motivation rather than enhance it. Therefore, the idea of the supporters of exams mentioned above cannot be generalized because it could work on some students over others depending on the differences of motivational orientation of students. For intrinsically oriented students who do not care about how much they score in exams and only care about how much they learn, external motivation would decrease their internal one.

    On the other hand, students who care to reach a certain goal and do not give learning much of their attention, tend to be more internally motivated by more external motivation (Kassin et al. , 2011). People opposing the idea of exam abolishment claim that exams are essential and the only way to monitor and evaluate students’ performances to spot their weaknesses in order to give them the proper help they need to improve their performances.

    It is very important to know where students’ stand throughout the course to help them improve their weaknesses as early as possible, but exams are not the only way to do so. In my opinion, instead of having only one comprehensive exam at the end of the course to evaluate progress, schools should perform a set of small tests several times through the course to evaluate students’ progress through the whole course and abolish the one final exam. Those small tests should not be purely theoretical and should include questions that test the actual knowledge of students.

    Paul Black and Dylan Williams (2005) have introduced the concept of “Assessment for Learning” or AFL which stresses on the need for several formative assessments’ to help students improve, and cancel the one summative assessment at the end of the course. People supporting exams claim that with the absence of exams and replacing them with in-class projects of formative assessments there would be a rising rate of plagiarism. However, this is not correct as cheating in exams is more obvious than plagiarism which could be detected by programs such as Turintin. Therefore, plagiarism is more controllable than cheating in exams.

    Simons (2011) suggested that in order to abolish plagiarism problem teachers have to trust their students and teach them how to do things correctly. Because exams are composed of questions that test students memorization skills, students who have poor memory or lazy to memorize answers to pass tend to cheat in exams because they simply have to pass them in order to move to the next grade. In the survey I have done, 99% of students said that they have cheated in one or more of their exams in their life time without being caught even though they know that cheating is unethical (Exams abolishment, 2012).

    I support the exam abolishment idea because, in my opinion, final exams test students’ memorization skills rather than knowledge. Students come to revisions before the exam where teachers almost give them the exam questions and ideal answers. Students then go home and stuff their heads with information they do not even understand just to pass the exam and get a good grade. Do they really learn anything? Do they even remember what they wrote in the exam after they finish it?

    The answer for both questions is no. Gaita (2004) stated that “Examinations test the ability to memorize large amounts of information for short periods of time”(p. 21). Some students have a greater ability to memorize lots of information than others. Therefore, it is unfair for students who studied hard throughout the semester to be put on the same level with students who did not even attend classes and just memorized everything a day or two before the exam (Gaita, 2004).

    In my opinion, exams should be abolished because they put students under enormous amount of pressure which could lead to serious psychological and physical health problems. Most students do not perform well under pressure although hey study and perform well in class. Those students are more likely to get poor grades or even fail their exams because they are unable to control their stress during the exam caused by their fear of failure. Do those students deserve to fail the course or get a low overall grade just because their nervousness in the exam caused their minds go blank while other students who are able to work under pressure pass exams although their school work is not sufficient? Wouldn’t be fair for those students to have a stress-free learning environment to have a fair grade?

    In a survey I have prepared, 99% of students forgot answers in the exam although they did study them because of stress and only one 1% think that exams make them excited (Exam abolishment, 2012). Not only that, some students experience nervous breakdowns during the exam such in Sanawya amma exams Egypt when some students faint, cry, go into depression state or even commit suicide. A 15-year-old girl committed suicide in the United Kingdom because she was worried about her GCSE exam and did not want to let her parents down (Jackson, 2004).

    Suicide cases due to inability to cope with exams pressure are rising to an average of 140 per year (Bentham, 2000). Exam anxiety could also lead to repeated failure causing school drop-outs or hopelessness. In conclusion, the current examination system has proved it failed. Not because something has been there for a long time means that it is useful and cannot be abolished. In my opinion, abolishment of exams would have positive effects on students’ school performance and health. One suggestion would be replacing exams with frequent assignments and projects.

    Those assignments and projects would benefit students more because they will help students understand what they learn. Also, in professional life when students apply for jobs, employers won’t look at exam results, they will ask for portfolios to prove candidates’ ability to do the job. Therefore, students need a better system to test knowledge than exams to improve skills and preserve the purpose of education.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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