Summer break has just begun. I managed to get away without any exams this semester, for the first time. In the past weeks, like every end of semester, I find myself thinking what an awful, ridiculous system these exams really are, especially in university. I’d like to try and articulate why.
I can imagine a university where exams are hardly even relevant because people only study things they find interesting, and only so long as they are interested. Such places exist (take Tokyo Shure for example).
However, most officially-recognized undegrad programs are still based on instructors providing students with pre-packaged chunks of information, and then judging whether each student has properly digested the information. This post will be about exams in that context; my point of reference will the linguistics BA program at the University of Leipzig. As far as I know, it’s as good an example as any of a normal undergrad program in science.
Exams are bad experiments
So why are exams a bad idea when you want to check whether a bunch of science undergrads understood what you taught them? Well, one part of the problem should be obvious to anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of science: exams are not very good experiments. Continue reading A Tirade Against Exams