A letter to the teachers of English: 34Common examination question papers [Archives:2003/692/Education]

December 8 2003

Dr..M.N.K.Bose ([email protected])
Associate Professor of English,
Faculty of Arts, Ibb.

Dear Fellow teachers,
In one of my earlier letters I have said that my students in the Faculty of Education – teacher trainees – and I studied closely some of the common examination questions papers available to us in this country for finding out the merits and demerits of them. Some of what we found were interesting and some were disturbing. I am sharing with you our observations for your benefit; I am sure you will have an opportunity to set such common examination questions papers in the future, if you have not had one so far. These observations are in no way a faultfinding attempt, but to remind ourselves that we could do better if we paid a little more attention.
There were interesting test items in some of the examination papers, for example, 'Reorder the following sentences in order to describe how you will make a phone call.' and 'Write 7 instructions for crossing the road.' These are real-life, communicative test items, which the students will enjoy and benefit from. Similarly, 'Match the words with the pictures', no doubt, is an enjoyable item to the students, especially of the preparatory class. Such items will enrich the question papers, as they are motivating and challenging and communicative in nature.
What disturbed us most were the awful spelling errors in the question papers, which could have been avoided, if the papers had been proofread carefully. In some of the question papers, we found that the instructions to the test items were either not clear or confusing. You will agree with me that in the examination, the only help students get is the instruction and it is important that the instructions should be simple, clear and understandable; they are equal to the teacher's instructions in the classroom, when the students do the exercises. I personally feel that in the lower classes, there is nothing wrong, if these instructions are given in Arabic. Don't raise your eyebrows; most often we translate them into Arabic in the examination halls, when the students have problems in understanding them, don't we? This happens in the college examinations too, then, why should we hesitate to give the instructions in Arabic in the lower classes? When the students are already tensed in the examination halls, the errors in the question papers and unclear instructions will put them off very easily., and these should be avoided, in the interest of the students.
The quality of printing in some of the question papers needed improvement. The pictures were not clear or not visible at all. In the preparatory classes, how do you expect the students to answer these questions?
These errors might lead to unwanted talking and consultation among the students in the examination halls, which indirectly paves way for other malpractices such as copying in the examinations, which, I hear, is rampant in schools and not uncommon in colleges.
We have also noticed some other problems that are related to the designing of the questions and the principles involved in it. I will write about them in my next letter.

Yours fraternally,