Are Exams Good or Bad?

I grew up writing a lot of exams in school, but it wasn’t until grade 12 that I had to write any government exams. As I watch my daughter prepare for her grade 6 government exams, I find myself wondering how much of the information she will retain. How much will legitimately help to shape her future? Is the jamming in of all of this information actually of any benefit to her?

You see, she is blessed to be able to both read and retain information easily. With this stated, she also definitely works at it. She is my one child that just sits and does her homework, no questions asked! She will take that information and study it, absorbing it as much as she can!

school girl

Reflecting on My Own School Exams

In many ways, I remember doing the same. While I wasn’t quite as studious as she is, I could take information and retain it long enough to spew it out onto the exam paper. Ask me to write many of those exams today, though? That would be a different story altogether! I believe I would fail miserably on many of the exams I wrote years ago should I have them in front of me today!

I remember making up songs to help me remember certain facts. I would sing them in my head, grab my exam, look for that question and write it out what I “knew” as soon as I could. I just as quickly forgot those songs after needing them for the purpose of getting a good mark. It was like I was treating my brain as a holding tank and flushing it out as soon as I left the exam room.

student studying for an exam

Meaningful Aspects of Learning

The skills of being able to read well and memorize facts serve a great purpose if the goal is to get a good mark. I hope it serves as great of a purpose when the goal switches to becoming an engaged, curious and active learner.

There are facts that people definitely need to learn and know forever, such as the rules of the road if they ever plan to drive. It is also important to understand the rules of a game. Knowing math facts and spelling of words certainly has made my life easier as well! There have also been certain aspects of the curriculum that she has been fascinated by. These aspects sparked her curiosity in such a way that she became determined to independently find out more information about them. Therefore, these concepts on her exams may show what my daughter actually knows and may retain forever.

What about the other information? The information that is part of the curriculum for her grade and that is simply taught to her so she has the “correct” information for the exam? I guess she will do how she does. She will likely retain the information necessary for her to retain and/or that fascinated her and forget the rest.

My Evaluation of Her Exam Results

I will look at her exam results when they come home. I will look at how she compares to the average student. However, I will not allow  these results to shape how I think of her future in any way. This is true even if the results are negative. Why do I say this? The reason is simple. I will never believe that my child’s future will ever be determined by a grade on an exam.

Socrates stated, “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” I sure hope her exams this year and all of her studying is just the kindling of a flame as opposed to spewing out knowledge that was filled in her vessel like so many of the exams I wrote in my past were.

kindling of a flame

How About You?

I would love to know what your exam experiences are or were like. Were they meaningful in the shaping of your future? Please share in the comments below or email me at

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Are Exams Good or Bad?

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1 Comment

  1. I was not good at exams. I remember doing math test that were on record players. I was horrible. Math makes a lot more sense now.

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