What does the test test?

Posted by janlong on August 28, 2015

What does the test test?

Aug 28, 2015

What does the test test?

 “Never try to discourage thinking, for you are sure to succeed.” ~ Bertrand Russell

French TextIf you saw today’s article in the Telegraph “The curious case of the French boy who failed AS-Level French” (http://goo.gl/m3Gr6P), you might think that it is a case of someone that does not understand the language of their country.  However, in this case, this is student at an English school and fluent in French due to his dual nationality. He therefore didn’t follow his teacher’s advice and learn by rote the phrases and the topics he was told to; being fluent in his own language, he didn’t think he needed to.  Nor should he have needed to!

The problem wasn’t the student’s ability to translate the material as he’s multi-lingual. The problem is a system that only accepts the answers given on the mark scheme.  Examiners (who are usually teachers themselves) can only award marks as per the instructions that they’ve been given. 

For an example, see http://goo.gl/qq8HeV - a mark scheme to an old GCSE English paper. 

You will note in the guidance for the examiner:

  • Marks are in bands with explanations as to what the words ‘clear’, ‘relevant’, ‘some’, ‘attempts’ and ‘limited’ mean.
  • Candidates are expected to reach the same conclusions as the paper setter as shown by the Candidates’ responses section which identifies the rote answers

There are no marks for independent thinkers.

Some subjects lend themselves to examination far better than others.  In maths, there is a correct answer but marks are awarded for workings and the examiner expects to see those workings using the methods that are fashionable at that time.  All too often, I speak to parents who don’t understand why the methods their children are being taught are so complicated compared with those ‘used in their day’.

Our examination system is at serious risk of forcing schools to produce students that are clones of a mythical ideal candidate by removing the opportunity to be original.  We should be celebrating creativity and encouraging innovation.  If we are to inspire our young people to think then an examination system that demands memorisation and rote learning is not the way.

Tags: GCSE, Exams
Category: News