Examinations as means, not goals [Archives:2004/718/Education]

March 8 2004

By Hasan Saeed Ba-Udan
[email protected]
Faculty of Education, Seyoun

It's no denying the fact that examinations are very significant since they provide feedback about students' level of comprehension, as well as their weaknesses and strengths in the learning process. In addition, grades can serve as motivation pushing students forward to make further progress. As such, exams remain as means, and not goals. To take exams as goals in themselves does not augur well for students' long-term goals of acquiring knowledge and skill.
But, unfortunately, nowadays most students are perceived to set grades as their only ambition. Consequently their aim is restricted to passing the exams and nothing else. In other words, studying for getting knowledge and useful information is not of value to them.
AS a result of this, students usually forget all the exam-related information shortly after the exam is over. Even some students may not be able to answer questions about what have been given to them in the previous years, that is because most of what they memorized in the previous years is entirely washed away from their minds. As an obvious evidence of this phenomenon is the common experience that some students finish their secondary schooling, but are unable to write even one correct sentence in English.
Another matter of serious concern is the fact that students' attention is mainly concentrated to memorize the content of the course material prescribed. But rarely are they found to be willing to expand their knowledge by reading other books beyond the course material. Moreover, their revision very often takes place one or two nights before the exam leading to a very shallow grasp of the content.
In order to ensure real and meaningful learning, students should study for seeking knowledge, rather than for passing the exams. The most effective way for achieving this is that each student should be conscious of the ultimate goal of their study. This goal can be implemented by different means, within the matrix of which exams really play an insignificant, minor role. In this case students' study will make a difference as their main concern will be focused on obtaining knowledge to achieve that larger goal and be qualified for successfully facing the challenges of life. The knowledge thus obtained will not be washed away by forgetfulness, even after taking the exam. Exams for that matter can also be passed easily because their awareness of the goal will keep them on their toes and make them study hard.
Teachers can play a crucial role in spreading an awareness among students that exams are not the be-all and end-all for them. They should not only depend upon exams in evaluating students' efforts because students' true abilities and knowledge are not always reflected in the exam grades awarded. A clear example of this fact is the oft-observed phenomenon that a good student ends up getting a low mark while a bad one may secure an unexpectedly high score.
In this context, we, the teachers and parents, have a significant role to play in putting exam in correct perspective and in infusing a healthy and positive attitude in the students about the role and relevance of exams in the scheme of things.