Article by Hattie Jensen

We have all taken at least one exam in our lifetime and have all either loved or hated our education, but I hope we can all agree that the immense amount of pressure put upon us in having to take exams is excessive.

In recent years, exams have been altered and changed, so that the amount of knowledge you have can be dictated by a single exam band, or number. In secondary education, they are two sections currently, GCSEs and A-levels. However, that was not always the case. GCSEs used to be called O-levels, but they were changed because GCSEs are more intelligible and accessible to the students who have to take them. GCSEs were also created so that people who want to leave school after 16, could do so with a qualification having not taken A-levels.

Exams have changed massively over time across the the world, but which is the best method? Exams are meant to see how well a student is doing compared to the rest of the country, but it should also allow students to show how hard they have worked and to demonstrate the knowledge they have. What effect do exams really have on students? Countries like the United States of America use standardised testing systems, used to compare students on their academic abilities to other students or classes. Although, students in Sweden have to take exams similar to GCSEs but on less subjects. Such as English, Maths, Swedish, one science and one social science subject.

Studies like the PISA exams (Programme for International Student Assessment) show that countries in Asia perform the best, with Finland and Estonia coming in a close second. However, these assessments are only in English, Maths and Science, and are to assess how well a student would do economically later in life. So they are not a fair judge of how well a student is doing at the present time.

In the current climate, how are we to know what will happen to our exams this year? The question is, whether our grades that we are awarded this year will be regarded as highly as someone who has actually sat their GCSEs. Will our ability to get jobs and university places differ because we have not actually sat our GCSEs? Will the pandemic urge the government to rethink their exam system as this has impacted them significantly? This also raises the question as to whether exams are really the best way to see how much a student has learnt.

I believe that this pandemic has hopefully made the country rethink their ideas on exams and their use, so that future generations are assessed equally according to their strengths not necessarily how they perform on the day.