Why have exams? Here's why....
Aberdeen Hall prides itself on offering a robust combination of empirically proven methods of instruction. Evaluation and assessment are integral aspects of teaching and learning, and exams are an important component of evaluation. Exams are a traditional form of evaluation and have numerous benefits.
We start the exam process in Grade 5 and sequence accordingly until Grade 12. In Grade 5 and 6, teachers offer a great deal of structured support throughout the entire process. In the middle years, we issue a detailed study skills package complete with directions and tips. In Grade 11 and 12, we distribute a more mature version of the study skills package. By implementing and practicing the exam process in a supportive and nurturing environment, it is our belief that the students will develop exam writing skills accordingly which in turn will assist them with succeeding at university and beyond.
Exams and test taking play a major role in university and industry.
Regardless of your personal feelings regarding the effectiveness of exams, it is hard to refute their relevance as most university programs rely primarily on summative exams for evaluation. Many industries also use exam results to determine licensing and certification. For this reason, individuals who perform well on exams have a competitive advantage.
Exam performance improves with practice.
We know from direct experience with formal standardized tests such as the SAT, that practice improves performance. We have dozens of students write and re-write standardized tests and on almost every occasion, achievement improves with practice. This is also the case for school exams.
Exams provide an excellent focus at the end of the year.
Having exams (as well other culminating tasks) at the end of the term provides a tremendous focus for both students and teachers. This focus allows us to maximize the time we have with students after a busy and hectic year.
Exams assist us with teaching time management and self management skills.
Managing 4-6 exams in 5-7 days is a daunting task and requires strict time management. We work with the students by providing review packages and study plans. We also assist the students with prioritization, elements of self control and the benefits of delayed gratification.
Exams improve performance under pressure.
When managed appropriately, exams provide a strong sense of achievement for students.
If the students are prepared and the exam is well set, the process is usually a positive experience that creates a meaningful feeling of achievement. It is very satisfying (for both teacher and student) when a student works hard and does well on an exam.
Exams teach students how to condense, synthesize and connect information.
I often hear people say that with the prevalence of modern information technology (smart phones, tablets, laptops, Wikipedia, etc...) it is no longer important to memorize information. This is not true. A certain amount of memorization is necessary as learning builds on learning. Without a certain core knowledge, it is difficult to build on that knowledge and create deeper understanding. This classic body knowledge could include the general understanding of a democratic government, or the basic economic principle of supply and demand. Although it is not necessary to memorize vast amounts of information, (as traditional academics have done in the past), it is necessary to memorize and understand a prescribed amount of core knowledge.
Exams serve as an excellent diagnostic tool for both teaching and learning.
Although exam results only tell part of the story, exams are a good indicator of knowledge and understanding. Exams are a rather efficient means of measuring the students' level of comprehension and knowledge. They also serve as a strong indicator of what the school (teacher) has taught well and what may require additional work. Our administration is constantly measuring the data from our exams to evaluate the level of our teaching and programs.
In addition to the summative forms of assessment (exams, unit tests, major culminating projects), our faculty also use many methods of formative assessment throughout the year. Examples include classroom discussions, quizzes, homework completion, pre-tests, tests, re-tests, debates, group projects, personal reflection and self evaluation.
As parents, you can help maximize your child's achievement by assisting with the following:
- work with your child to create a study plan (if not done already)
- maintain open dialogue regarding trouble issues or areas of anxiety
- encourage extra help or tutor assistance
- create a dedicated controlled study environment that has minimal distractions, and that is comfortable, but not too comfortable (desk work with a good chair is best)
- encourage small breaks with rewards after goals are reached (a nice snack or meal after 90 minutes of solid work...)
- role model by doing similar types of work in partnership with your child
Ashley Bryden has passed on the following helpful youtube link about study skills.
The Exam Success Passport was handed out to students last week (link below).
Head of School