I have just completed my last A level exam, and coming so close on the assessment for disabled students allowance I had yesterday it has set me to the customary musing on exams, concessions and alternatives.
Now to begin with my concession for exam is being allowed to complete them on a computer in a separate room, with 25% extra time but spell checking disabled.
It also occurred during my assessment yesterday that to be granted money to by a laptop may not be an option in the future as lap tops become more an more a mainstream necessity for today’s students, it will become something one is expected to provide oneself with anyway and only exceptional software may come as a concession. That would put one at an economic disadvantage rather than a disabled one, as one would be in the same position as any student from a less affluent background.
However I thought too of what the exam was trying to prove. In essence the 25% extra is partly to compensate for not having a spell checker allowed, they give with one hand and take away with the other.
The emphasis on spelling and grammar is there in exams as much as in papers and dissertations, essentially what one is having to prove in an exam is ones ability to recall enough of what one has learnt and to communicate that to a third party under pressure in answer to a specific enquiry. A very narrow scope of knowledge.
For sure the ability to communicate what one has learnt is as important as merely knowing it if one is to go on to any kind of higher education of employment which actually requires one to share knowledge so that I will accept.
What I don't accept is the need to know everything without reference to dictionaries or standard reference materials or notes. Many public speakers will use notes to prompt them, and of course anyone publishing will make use of proof readers if there grammar, phraseology and spelling is in anyway in doubt. Indeed one of the things that the DSA will be to pay for is for me to access that kind of support for my written work.
So a real world test of knowledge would be somewhat more general than a few selected and often badly phrased random exam questions.
I see no reason why someone completely untutored writing an academic paper, using references and a secretary should not gain an equivalent to an exam grade for the final product if that final product better communicates the knowledge one has acquired in the process.
The arguments then come about pressure, it being realistic in a work situation to assume one has to work under pressure and exams are a preparation for that. Not so I say, there are pressures enough having to produce a paper for a deadline, particularly if one is doing ones own research rather than learning in a classroom environment.
Then the pro examination brigade cite the growing amount of plagiarism in favour of exams against course work. To that I say that plagiarism is a problem which needs to be tackled, however, parroting what one has rote learnt cramming for an exam is not exactly being original either.
Well whatever I hope to do well overall in my exams, even though my showing last year was not too good. It is irrelevant to some extent how I do, except to me, because I already have my University place for this Autumn.