That time of the year when students have to show how much they have learned is just around the corner. They will be spending days and nights “swotting”—in other words, learning off by heart what they do not necessarily understand to show teachers they are doing just fine.
Exams are undoubtedly the most stressful events in students’ lives. Regardless of their age and the stage they are at in their educational journey, they are expected to perform to the highest standards, under conditions that are sometimes neither natural nor conducive to demonstrating real aptitudes
Anything from timed Cloze tests to long-winded essays debating philosophical questions will be scrutinized with the underlying premise that the outcomes are faithful accounts of students’ knowledge and abilities. These will be graded in terms of accuracy (right or wrong), argument (convincing to flimsy) and style (adequate to inadequate), in light of detailed grading rubrics, most often unknown to those proving their worth.
Students will perform after long sleepless nights, to find that all they thought they knew amounts to a rewired mind, all the more obvious when even their name is misspelled. They will sometimes leave the room feeling that they did a wonderful job, to later be informed of their lack of success—in the worst case scenario, materialized in an F on the test page. Others will have a few more sleepless nights, certain that they have not made it, to then be told they have passed, against all odds. Exams are strange experiences.
Exams in an Online Context
But exam time is equally stressful for teachers. We will find ourselves pondering how to design a test that will be difficult enough to challenge the strongest students, while easy enough for the majority to pass with flying colors.