Is Examination a good way of assessing someone’s skill and knowledge?

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How do we know if someone can actually do something? Is it by asking them to write about it or by asking them to show us how they would do it?  Someone cannot be assessed merely on his ability to reproduce the taught lessons on the answer paper. This concept is basically flawed when viewed in connection with the aim of education. Academic life forms the foundation of one’s future as well as career. Through education a child is transformed into a better human being. To succeed in life, a student must absorb, analyze and utilize the acquired knowledge in his day to day life. By testing with exams only the absorption aspect is checked, while other two vital aspects are left out. Why to study just to pass the examination? Rather learning should be knowledge oriented and not exam oriented. I feel there is a need of an integral mode of test to analyze the overall development of the student through his studies.

Everywhere around the world examination is the only way to appraise the students. I think that exams can be helpful for certain students but for most students they represent cramming, bad style habits, and rote memorizing of facts. Exams that test this sort of information do not provide an accurate reflection of student’s intellectual abilities; rather they demonstrate which students can cram better than other students. Implementing alternative forms of assessment may allow other students to prove their intellectual abilities in a manner that actually qualifies true intellects as opposed to memorizing. There are some very bright students that do not test well for whatever reason. They aren’t dumb or less capable of learning but the way they learn and assimilate the information may be different than other students. A conventional exam does not explore these variances.  I would say that examination is incomplete in assessing skills and knowledge because everyone has different learning curve. Testing is not perfect, sometimes tests have biases and teaching to the test can limit creativity and dampen enthusiasm for learning, exams do not perfectly assess someone’s mental ability.

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However, it is obligatory and perhaps it is the only mode that provides the most accurate way of testing someone’s knowledge and learning. And well, I had my midterm exams this week possibly to test what we have learned during the last eight weeks of lectures and I have noticed something peculiar in doing so. Here we have two modes of test: Open Book Test (Textbooks and other materials are not allowed except the lecture notes and of course their hand written notes over the handouts) and Closed Book Test (nothing is allowed expect pen and students ID’s). We had open book test for some modules and indeed it’s my first time. Though, every module weren’t open book, but for those, I really didn’t pay much heed thinking that as I have my handouts with me I can refer and answer accordingly.  Nevertheless, it wasn’t that easy, in fact it’s much more challenging. The questions were so twisted and tricky that requires the understanding of lecture notes. I had a tough time flipping over the handouts looking for the appropriate answer. It was rubbish just consuming my time.

Now, given a preference I would prefer for close book, invigilated pen and paper test, pertaining to the fact that this is something of an anachronism given the human capital needs of a knowledge economy, not just because of the absence of technology that is used routinely in everyday business and commerce, but because this type of examination is compatible with constructivist learning theory that favors deep learning and certainly it can yield better results in terms of the depth of student learning. The end of midterm has left a huge hangover of toil and turmoil for preparation, where my hands sore, brain feeble, thoughts intrude, minds so inattentive; I really need an extensive rest.  Bye bye..……….





Dorji Penjor

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