Candidate Script 5
"ARE EXAMINATIONS BENEFICIAL TO EDUCATION?"
"Education is an admiral thing, but it is well to remember, from time to time, that
nothing that is worth knowing can be taught ...” (Oscar Wilde)
Many people believe that the individual is no longer provided with a 'general'
education at school, because he is only taught how to pass exams. The
examination does motivate a pupil to study the coursework (because he may
have a fear of failing), but such importance is placed on the results
themselves that it may be argued that the exam grade is the end product of
the 'education'. I am going to evaluate the merits of exams, and decide
whether there is an alternative method of educating people which places less
emphasis on the passing of exams.
In the ideal school the course work would not be based around the exams, but
would be aimed to encourage the pupils to acquire and develop an intellectual
curiosity. The pupils would read books because they would possess a desire
to learn and to expand their knowledge. There will not always be exams which
encourage the individual to learn or study a subject, so in later life many
people will feel it unnecessary to learn out with the requirements of their job/
environment. Therefore, by providing them with a desire to study topics which
interest them at school, and by encouraging them to want to learn for
themselves it would appear a better preparation for life after full time
On the other hand, exams do have many benefits. The results can be used as
an indication of how an individual is coping with a subject, and can be used to
isolate problem areas. They provide a person with an incentive to study and a
motivation to reach their maximum capabilities, whilst simultaneously
indicating to the teacher how thoroughly a pupil has understood the work.
Studies also indicate that only a very small number of candidates - as few as
seven percent - suffer from "examination trauma". This means that since
fewer people now "freeze" or "go blank" when in the examination situation the
exam results are usually a true indication of a pupil's capabilities.
Exam results are used to determine entrance into further education- the
grades present an accurate assessment of the candidate to the university,
college or employer. A simple estimation of intelligence, without exam grades,
would fail to determine between marginal differences in intellect. Some pupils
actually excel when in they are stretched and pressurised to perform which
would mean that a mere "Intelligence Quotation" would not suffice.
At school many of the subjects which are taught develop necessary skills and
are not solely based around the learning of facts. In the social sciences, ideas
are developed, essay writing is improved and evaluation skills are acquired. If
a foreign language has been studied, future job prospects both abroad and in
our own country are increased and here examinations provide an incentive to
learn vocabulary and to study a culture different to our own. Studying the
Classics can also improve our understanding of English and Romance
The Scottish education system is fairly successful when we consider that the
SCE Standard Grades cater for around sixty five percent of candidates in
Scotland and the Highers for around thirty percent.
However, it is still felt that school fails to provide a rounded education. There
are many "youngsters" who feel that material which is not included in the
examination syllabus is not worth learning. This as a misunderstanding of
educational values and I will examine where these flaws lie.
English should be regarded as an opportunity to study poetry, grammar and to
learn about the many merits of literature. There are, however, others who look
at this concept differently. They only read when a review is imposed upon
them and they treat reading as an unnecessary task. This is not an example
of an 'educated' pupil. They do not understand that it should be their own
thoughts on and interpretations of a text which are considered important,
rather than simply handing in a review to gain the highest mark.
In foreign languages a pupil will often feel discouraged to express what he
actually feels because this is difficult and ambitious. He instead structures an
essay which comprises expressions from his vocabulary note book, and rarely
says what he actually feels. By regurgitating these relatively 'meaningless'
essays, he not only learns little but is not studying the language in its true
In the cases above it would appear that the school suppresses a pupil's
creative thought, removes his ability to think freely and minimalises self-
confidence when he is being tested on untaught areas hardly a preparation
for life 'apres' school.
I feel it would, however, be impractical to abolish exams completely because
they have many merits, and when this was tried in some American states it
proved unsuccessful- the pupils actually lost the incentive to study. General
assessments are also flawed because they often result in the more diligent
pupil, and possibly not the most intelligent, doing best.
A possible solution would be to involve the pupils in what they study and to
encourage them to develop more of an interest in the course work. Less
emphasis should be placed on the examinations, to prevent the pupils
'cramming' and 'regurgitating' facts which will be soon forgotten after the
In conclusion I feel the pupil should learn through experience and should
acquire a knowledge of the course work at the same time. If the pupil
develops an understanding of how to apply this knowledge and possesses a
desire to learn for himself out with the curriculum, then it can be said that he
has received an education.
Assessment commentary on candidate script 5
In this piece of argumentative writing, the candidate sets out to "evaluate the
merits of exams, and decide whether there is an alternative method of
educating people". Broadly, this purpose is achieved, through a range of
relevant references both to the benefits of examinations and to their negative
impact on "general education". In all of this, there is an underpinning
thoughtfulness. Disappointingly, however, the argument is not carried through
to a clear proposal of alternatives and, for that reason, loses force.
The essay is structured in an acceptable manner with reasonably secure
linkage and signposting taking the reader through a logical pattern of
comment and evidence. Impact, however, is limited - owing mainly to the
relative thinness of detail, the rather basic treatment and the lack of real skill
in using evidence.
The formal, almost 'official' tone of the piece is quite fitting and there are
occasional signs of commitment to an original stance - well enough supported
by apt word choices and sentence structures.
This essay has the potential to rise significantly above the standard required
to achieve the outcome at Higher, but lack of variation in technique and of a
sustainable conclusion undermines its overall effectiveness.
Award: Higher, Grade C