Brain Train: Studying for Success

By Richard Palmer | Go to book overview
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Everything in life, including marriage, is done under pressure.

Isaiah Berlin

If I asked you to summarize your objections to exams, I imagine you would arrive at a list that approximates this one.
1. Exams put an excessive premium on speed.
2. That accent on speed encourages glibness.
3. Slow writers are thus at a double disadvantage. They are not able to put down as much as they would like or need to, and they are unable to spare any time for preparatory thinking.
4. The formality of the occasion is artificial and damaging. To work in serried ranks is unnatural, and unnatural work by definition cannot be representative of either the student or true quality.
5. To test a year's work-or maybe two or three years'-via a handful of three-hour papers is ludicrous. No student can do more in such a time than suggest the tip of an iceberg of learning and development.
6. It is impossible to think carefully because of the need to write so fast. In addition, it is wrong to confuse clarity of thought with speed of answer, which exams inevitably do.
7. Examiners have no contact with or knowledge of the students they judge. There is no room within such a set-up for personality or individuality: it is a cold business dependent on 'mark schemes' and 'right answers'. To fail someone is therefore of no consequence to examiners: they may even rather enjoy it.
8. Passing exams is less a matter of true knowledge than an artful acquaintance with the tricks and quirks of 'the game'.
9. There is no allowance for the fact that we all have our good days and our bad days. Inspiration should not be at the mercy of something as arbitrary as an exam date.


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Brain Train: Studying for Success


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