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By Elizabeth Wood on 22.5.2023

Exams Aren’t Fair

Examinations. The vast majority of students have to sit them, some pass and some fail. They haunt us through our academic lives; we take them in primary school to assess which table we’re to be sat at and we take them all the way through to Postgraduate level, to assess what we’re going to do with our lives. Almost all students have one thing in common however; we don’t like them very much. Can you blame us?

Exams are, essentially, a brief window of time into which people are forced to regurgitate everything they have learned over the past year. I am someone who suffers from extreme exam anxiety. I am also a Literature student. To me, being told to write two essays in two hours and making them coursework-worthy is like telling someone with dreadful stage fright to get on up there and recite a soliloquy. It’s unfair. People who have the skill of being able to keep their cool in an exam have an instant advantage. It’s a different process altogether. Whilst one level headed person sitting an exam may think, “Okay. Choose question, plan answers, write answer, be concise, use big words,” my train of thought is more like, “Blind panic. Sweat. Be panicked in case sweat is visible. It’s too cold. It’s too hot. I don’t know any of these things. We’re twenty minutes in and I’m yet to write anything. Oh my god I’ll never get a job.” This doesn’t nessacerily mean that I’m not as intelligent as the first person, or less knowledgeable, it just means I panic more easily. Thus, I am less likely to do well in the exam.

This, of course, also applies to subjects outside of the Humanities. Here’s another nice kick in the teeth for me; my memory is appalling. Appalling! So when I sat my Maths and Science GCSE’s, no matter how much I had revised, I couldn’t remember the formula for working that out, or what that kind of particle that was called. Even though I had spent the last two years learning about it.

Exams just aren’t fair. You spend so long knowing these facts, remembering them, and then you sit at this creaky little desk and it all flies out of your mind. You’re given such a small amount of to demonstrate what you’ve learned over the space of months. Whether the exam is written or oral, it’s always such an unpleasant and pressure filled experience.

I understand, having said all of this, that there is practically no other way of doing it. Myself personally, I really enjoy coursework. I like taking my time and getting feedback. You can’t make everything 100% coursework, it’s unfair on those who hate doing it that way. So we’re stuck with this compromise of half coursework and half exams which, like with most compromises, pleases nobody.


  • It’s true that someone who crumbles under exam pressure isn’t necessarily less intelligent or knowledgeable than someone who doesn’t. Nonetheless, being able to handle pressure, use what you’ve learnt to answer a question in a logical and coherent way under time pressure remains a great way to test an individual’s aptitude, and suitability for a job.

    Frankly, if you can’t take the pressure of exam conditions then you a. need to do more practice b. deserve a bad mark.

    By Ernest Henry on 25.5.2023

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  • It appears all inQuire writers get the itch to write something along these lines at this time of year…

    By A. Former Editor on 24.5.2023

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