I HATE exams! I probably despise them even more than my students. They are probably the worst kind of assessment going and yet we rely on them so much. There is no situation in the employment world where you have to work individually and secretively, you’d be fired pretty quickly if you did! In the world of work you have to collaborate and be innovative, using key skills and knowledge to solve unique problems – how could we re-invent what is going on in the classroom to reflect this?
When it comes to revision time I have a flock of students around my desk asking for past papers. They know there is a chance that what has been covered in the past might well come up again, which of course it does. We run Cambridge international examinations here at my school and of all the exam boards I have worked with they do seem to push the key skills element of examinations and test if the student can apply the knowledge they have learnt to a different scenario but is this still enough? People have bad days, (I should know) and is it fair to test someone for one hour on about 200 hours’ worth of material? I don’t know if it but I can’t think of an alternative. I wish there was some kind of practical examination where the students get dropped in a room with some basic supplies and they have to use their physics knowledge to build a Rube Goldberg machine to get out! I guess the closest I’d ever seen to this is the physics game www.fantasticcontraption.com – which I strongly recommend. Can you imagine getting an IGCSE for your ability to play physics computer games, that’s the kind of syllabus I want!