Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Taking and passing exams

Taking and passing exams

After the very good advice in last week’s ‘Notes’ (3.6.05), I would like to provide a bit more food for thought about sitting examinations and passing them.

Every teacher has been a student, and taken exams, of course, and as teachers who set exams for our own students, we know how it’s done.

It is useful for students to know what their teachers are looking for when they set examinations and mark them.  There is no malice aforethought in setting examinations, and although it is probably common for students to think of exams as some form of punishment; actually the reverse is the case.  Since we teachers have all sat exams at various points in our academic lives, we can sympathize and empathize with our students.

In writing a question for an examination, teachers and lecturers ask themselves what sort of answer they expect to get in response to any particular question set.  In my experience, teachers are careful not to set questions they know their students will not be able to answer well.  This is not the same thing as making an examination easy, but rather it is a way of ensuring that only fair questions are put to students.

An acceptance of the allocation of marks to each candidate should be at the heart of the trust in every teacher/learner relationship.  Marks are taken, not given – nothing is arbitrary – everything is entirely logical and examiners are always accountable; and, teachers are on your side – we were students once ourselves remember.

Robert L. Fielding


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