I don’t think I can remember a single year where I haven’t sat an exam. I may have spent at least the last 10 years of my life writing exams. So much so, that it feels like I am conditioned to believe that exams are an integral part of my life. Ever since Year 5, I feel like I may have done a hundred papers.
Here’s why I think that. Counting from Year 5, my school had three terms just like many others. With the help from my trusted Uni approved calculator, I present my mathematical case*:
- Number of years: Yr 5 + Yr 6+ Yr 7+Yr 8+Yr 9+Yr 10 +Yr 11+ Yr 12= 8 or (+ 1, If you did you’re A levels = 9)
- Number of exam periods: 8 or 9 x 3 = 24 or 27
- Average number of papers per period = Math + Science +English + History +Geography + a language = 6 (or more if your school further split the Sciences, English, and math exams to calculator and non-calculator, or decided that PE could have theory too)
- Total Exams sat: 24 or 27 x 6 = 144 or 162
* This excludes mini tests, assignments and the much dreaded pop-quizzes.
Many of us even go on to do University, which allows you to safely add at least 40 more papers to your running total, depending on the length of your course. But the reality is, it never ends there. It’s a false sense of hope that we are provided with when people say ‘once you finish University, it’s over and done with’.
For example, a person I know, Bob*, is frankly one of the smartest people I have ever met. Bob has finished university and has worked in many international firms globally and is sitting comfortably in the middle life stage of his life cycle. Yet he still needed to sit his MBA, APA, and some other degrees that hold the remaining of the alphabets, well after he had graduated uni with all the necessary credentials.
*Bob isn’t his real name, for privacy reasons.
There is an external pressure that forces us to be the best in order to get the best.
Some may say that he is an overachiever and an ambitious man who didn’t necessarily need to complete all those degrees and probably did them to fulfill his personal goals; which is a fair implication. However, looking at the current financial situation with the employment rates, it could be quite naïve to say that there is no external pressure that mandates a person to do a degree, to essentially get a job in the first place. Gone are the days where a simple graduate degree could land you a stable job with a hefty pay sum. To be sufficiently stable in a stagnant industry’s competitive employment field, people are continuously required to be the best of the best.
Most employers judge our abilities from our resumes. If they aren’t sterling, there is a very high chance that you would be rejected even before they meet you in person. Most of the times, it is a combination of the type of work experience and qualifications you have that get you through to the interview stage. But there, in my opinion, lies the catch: better degrees lead you to better work experiences. Once your degree is considered slightly stale in comparison to a new and improved degree that all the employers are looking for, there is the possibility that you may have to sit another set of exams to get the latest degree in order to successfully grow in your field. This, thus essentially implies that exams will always be present.
So, are exams a consistent element of life?
Exams, in my opinion, exist because it is currently the only effective way to examine someone. This is because, it is firstly an easy way to find out if someone has actually studied the content and essentially test them.
Secondly, the structured procedure of exams allows for each student to be fairly treated and tested. There are many who may believe otherwise. An analogy raised by those who do not like the examination process is if we were to test different animals on who can best climb the tree, then the exam would be found easy by a monkey than compared to an elephant. This is a fair view. However, there are a few flaws with this theory. Firstly, in the education system we are testing everyone from the same species (humans) unlike the case in the analogy. Some may rebutt this saying that the different animals represent different skill sets. This brings me to my second point which is that each exam tests different skill sets and different knowledge. Using the same analogy but replacing the tree with a biology test and replacing the animals with students who have different skill sets, it can be said that a student with an affinity towards biology would definitely do better. However, if a music exam was sat by the same students, the other student may have done better. This goes to show that the exams merely indicate how proficient each student is in that area of knowledge. Viewing the student who does better in biology as smarter is not a fault of the examination process, but of society.
Since exams are the only way to effectively test someone so far, it forms a sturdy back drop when comparing between job candidates. Isn’t that the main reason we sit these exams – To get a good job?
I personally love to hate exams but I know deep down that I would never study the subject unless I was going to gain and extrinsic reward for it and so for me, doing exams are a motivator and a way of life. Maybe I feel that exams are a way of life because life in itself is one big test. Or maybe it is because I am conditioned to believe so due to the way our society operates. But what I do believe in, is that exams are definitely a consistent element of our life.
Hoping those revision notes are laminated ;),
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