The university exam system needs to change

Once every semester, the beautiful Ian Beddis and Bob Davis gymnasiums at Brock transform into a stage of human misery – the anomaly we lovingly refer to as “exam time”. While having end-of-class exams may seem almost inevitable, as it epitomizes the long tradition of hierarchal education in the West, there are so many different countries doing it better – and we here at Brock University need to adapt to the changing times and definitively declare that exams are not an “accurate” measure of anything more than cramming and test-taking skills.

Personally, many of my professors have described the difference between exams and papers, saying that papers reward innovation whereas exams reward regurgitation. That was not them critiquing exams, however, sadly, that was their best attempt to legitimize their importance. There are far better ways to determine whether a student showed up to class and listened than by demanding they repeat back the course material to you.

Photo courtesy of: www.brocku.ca

Brock’s Ian Beddis gym at exam-time; Photo courtesy of: www.brocku.ca

Nothing about exam time is student-driven or accommodating, even just looking at the arrangement of the desks in the cold gym, compared to the warm, friendly classrooms that are flaunted in Brock’s Education Department that facilitate learning and freedom, the exam set-up is the complete opposite.
As much as I’d love to see a total elimination of exams, there are some more progressive countries that still have exams, but just have them more accommodatingly innovative. In the Czech Republic for example, there is no rigid exam schedule: students merely sign up for times to tackle the exams, and even then, if they do not feel they’ve done well enough, they can receive two “redos”.

Does this defeat the point of exams altogether? No, instead, it compensates for the fact that a student might be sick or scattered on a particular day, and as a result, that particular exam will not be an accurate measurement of his engagement with the material.

Brock’s motto, “Surgite!” has become branded by the university in terms of exam-time, asking student to “push on” through the manufactured diversity of standardized testing. Does this not give rise to the question of why we have to use a military term to get through a part of nearly every student’s academic experience? Of all the things that education can emulate – should war and violence really be one of them? Exams aren’t caring assessments or mentorship or teaching – they’re rigid contracts of hegemony that assign you a grade based on your ability to memorize.

Having a degree shouldn’t just mean you can memorize, it should mean that you can think, which is something that there is little to no space for on exams.

-Steve Nadon

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