The final exam has come under a great deal of fire over the last couple of decades, mostly due to the fact that too many people are failing them. The reality of life is that when people cannot master something, they start to ask questions about its validity. This isn’t to say that all final exams are fair and equitable. Nor does it argue that all exams are structured well or are paired with a beneficial educational experience. Also, not all courses are ideally suited for the traditional exam. There are other ways to evaluate the knowledge base of students. But, we have to recognize that the exam is there to test competency. If a student cannot demonstrate that he has absorbed the knowledge and outcomes of the course, then he needs to re-take the course. The final exam is not a conspiracy, nor is it a tool of discrimination. Rather, it is a concrete way to measure the effectiveness of education.
Granted, some people do not do well on tests. However, some of this is due to the fact that some people are not very good students. Also, they do not study for their exams in an effective manner. We all have things that we are interested in. For those subjects, we can rattle off endless information and knowledge without having to check any notes or read any books. Exams are less about an ineffective tool, and more about an atmosphere that creates knowledge retention. It is about creating a situation where the student is interested in what they are studying.
Teachers today face some immense challenges. Some are under-funded and under-resourced, while others are struggled with over-sized classes of students. They must also contend with absent parents and educational bureaucracies that seem more concerned with sustaining themselves than promoting quality education. The critics of exams are plentiful, but their alternatives are not plentiful. Or, their solutions are idealistic and lack a structure for application in today’s educational environment. Overall, exams should stay so that schools can continue to show something in terms of educational results. It doesn’t have to be the only methodology, but until someone comes up with something better, then be ready to study.