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The pressure of examinations

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By: Zubair Hamid Parray

Older people who reflect on the happiness of youth often forget all about examinations, just as we tend to push all unpleasant things out of mind. All young people who aspire to reach any worthwhile position in life are committed to the examination system from the age of 9 or 10, until the early 20s, if the university training or technical college is included. Examinations are a series of hurdles to be jumped until the weary student finally reaches the winning post.  At any rate, most people see examination this way and very rarely people like them and there is no reasonable substitute for them also.

There are two kinds of examinations; the private ones held in school or college and the public once such as school entrance, School Certificate, Higher School Certificate and the University examinations and their objectives may vary. The private ones are intended to show whether or not a student has worked well during a term and the result may involve little more than pleasure (or displeasure!) on the part of parent or teacher. The public ones are designed as steppingstones to more advanced fields of education, until the degree level is reached and these are very important in determining the kind of job a student can get in the competitive world or in indicating what kind of further education suits his or her particular talents. Banks, business houses, commerce and local government demand a reasonable number of good ‘O’ levels and prefer some ‘A’s, while the professions, the law, medicine, teaching etc require considerably higher qualifications.

To the student, it seems an endless vista of study an intellectual ‘rat-race’ in these competitive modern times. Yet, there must be some way of indicating that one student has reached a required level when another has failed. The fact that public examinations, both oral and written, were held as long ago as in Greek and Roman times shows this  as does the fact that examinations today are held in every civilized country in the world. If we accept the need for a way of differentiating students, the question which follows is-are examinations the best way? Here, there are two schools of thought. In Britain, the most debated examination is the 11 +. If a child fails at this age, he or she is debarred from the grammar school or ‘stream’, and in effect, from the academic life.

If a few cases, bright failures are given a second chance at 13 and a few move into higher schools but not many. Some local authorities have now dropped the examination altogether at this stage and award places on term work and primary teachers’ recommendations. But here again some have to fail and however impartial the decision may be, there is always some suspicion of favoritism or unfairness.

The question arising, then is if examination is a fair test of ability? The answer generally is a big yes. There are, of course, children and young people whose minds ‘go blank’ in the examination room and those who suffer from nervousness or whose technique is bad and then they fail to do themselves justice. But quite often this talk of exam is a cloak for laziness or ignorance! By the middle teens, a child ought to make a fair show at more tender ages and the candidate is given every chance including an intelligence test beforehand sufficiently elaborate to enable the school to predict results with some confidence.

Are examinations fair? The examiner is never out to catch the student; indeed enormous efforts are made to offer a wide selection of fair questions covering the whole range of work the student may be expected to have done. Again, the student who says ‘I had a bad paper’ really means ‘I only covered part of the work and was unlucky!’

Given hard and intelligent work, any normal student may expect to pass an examination. There are, of course, helpful points such as neatness, good spelling, paragraphing, and planning. These will all gain marks. But in general, providing the work is there.

Examinations — good or bad?

This is a word that causes sleepless nights, a word can change a cheerful person into a nervous wreck. So, what are examinations, and how can they be any good? An examination can be defined as a detailed inspection or analysis of an object or person. For example, an engineer will examine a structure, like a bridge, to see if it is safe. A doctor may conduct a medical examination to gauge whether a person is healthy. In the school context, it is the students who take the examinations. These are usually a series of comprehensive tests held at the end of each term, year or, in the case of public examinations, after a few years.

One of the main purposes of school examinations is to improve the quality of education. From the results of the examinations, the teachers and planners of the curriculum will be able to gauge the extent to which the students have acquired the knowledge and skills of the course material. This would, first of all, provide an evaluation of their teaching methods, so they can make improvements, if necessary.

Examinations are also used as a yardstick for measuring the capability of a candidate, for further education or employment. For example, examination results are the main criteria when selecting students for entrance into universities. It is assumed that the examination results would indicate whether or not the student will be able to handle the course. In the case of employment, it is felt that the examination results will indicate whether or not the job seeker has the skills or intelligence to handle the job.

Examinations need never be feared. They can even be enjoyed if only in retrospect !

The writer is pursuing Bachelor’s Degree In English Literature And Linguistics At Government Degree College Sumbal Sonawari Bindipora. [email protected]


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