Saturday, September 12, 2009


I hate exams...I would leave it right until the last minute to revise and the minute I walked out of the exam room I felt as if I had forgotten everything. I would never look at the returned exam papers so would have no idea what the feedback was...and I was only ever interested in the mark.

As a mature learner I refuse to take part in any course that involves exams. I do not feel they support my learning...I much prefer to take a project or case study approach to assessment, especially one that scaffolds my learning.

So what place do exams play in higher education today?

Assessing knowledge
In the past, as an midwifery educator, I have used exams to test knowledge retention. How valid exams are as a means to do remains to be seen. We know that some people do very well with exams - they remember facts and get high grades because of this...but does it tell us how well these students integrate this knowledge into practice? At the same time, students can do very poorly with exams because of the pressure they are under, yet they preform very well in clinical practice.

Philosophically, I am against exams...I do not feel they truly test how well students integrate midwifery knowledge into practice. But in practice...and this is where I'm going to get myself into very hot water... exams have been a very effective way of "weeding" out students who are border-line 'fails'.

It has been my experience that students can fudge their way through essay, presentation and demonstration assessment. But exams are different. The answers are black and either get them right or questions're in or out!

National exams
OK. You can very rightly criticize me for taking this stance...using exams to fail people rather than provide positive learning experiences......shame on me!

I'd love to hear what you think about using exams in exams have a place in education today? What about professions such as midwifery where knowledge is critical to the safety of the general public... should we continue to administer a national exam at the end of a three year program...does a national exam prove that the student will be a safe practitioner?

Image: 'Para darse cabezazos contra la pared' sergis blog

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