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Exams are the worst

22 June 201202:45PMrants

Exams. I have just finished them. Admittedly there were only two, but shut up.

Y'know, the more I do exams, the more I become convinced that they're, to use the vernacular, "totally the worst". I'm not just being bitter here. I actually tend to do very well in exams, and I don't think these were any particular exception. Like, aside from just being unpleasant, I'm not actually sure that they're actually useful to anybody involved.

If you think the purpose of education is to prepare people for the workforce, exams do... nothing. Under no circumstances that I can think of in a workplace environment are you required to sit still, silently, with no access to resources, and solve problems in an extremely short amount of time. That is not a useful skill.

On the other hand, if you think education should be about learning for the hell of it, to enrich your life, exams accomplish... wait, no, nothing. They create a lot of unnecessary stress and incentivise cramming over a real genuine understanding and appreciation of the subject matter.

I can only imagine that they're a pain in the butt for the staff too. Between writing exams by a deadline and marking them by one there's probably just as much stress on them as there is on us. Just about the only thing they have going for them is that they're the band-aid of assessments - rip it off fast and get it over with.

For comparison, I had two units this semester which had a major project instead of an exam - one was a three minute video, and the other was a 2500 word essay. The essay probably ate about 30 odd hours of my life, the video project at least double that. Both of these were, I reckon, pretty close to the best I work I could do. I was genuinely proud of that essay, even more so of the video. (Some of that's probably Stockholm syndrome though - I was definitely locked up with them for long enough.) I feel like I did something worthwhile, actually produced something, rather than the mundane achievement of balancing an entire semester's worth of content in my short-term memory.

And if you're talking about skills, managing time and research and planning and teamwork are infinitely more transferrable than recalling data under distress. Knowing how to produce and edit a video is infinitely more valuable than being able to recite camera angles from memory. Being able to keep track of a 3000-line code project is much more useful than writing pseudocode on a piece of paper.

It's not like I have a choice. Exams are pretty much unavoidable. And I'm just as guilty of falling into the cram-exam-forget cycle as everyone else. I just think it's a waste of potential when you could be making stuff where you actually learn something, and which show the best stuff you can possibly produce, and which you can be genuinely proud of.


Anyway, now I've got six weeks of break. So at least there's that, right?