Opportunity of Exams

During the period before I went to university more than 10 years ago, I gave Math and Economics tuition to students at O and A Levels. If there was one thing I would like to think I help to change their thinking about, it is towards exams.

Students I encounter tend to look at their exam papers and results as though it was water under the bridge and so toss out the papers and channeled all their emotions, energies towards the single grade or score they achieved. Yet the largest opportunity is actually in the marked script of the paper. Not because you can dispute the scores; but because it contains way more precious feedback than the single dimensional score or grade can tell you.

Reflecting upon the experience of the exam-taking, the way you approached each question, the manner by which you recall important details to answer the questions matters. That exercise allows you to work on the right aspects of your knowledge gaps or approach to test-taking.

It is a shame that exam scripts are not distributed back to the students. I mean the national exams and the important ones. Maybe they are afraid of showing tabulation mistakes or opening themselves to grade disputes. But I think it is a missed opportunity; it conveys the wrong messages that the grades were the only things that mattered in the whole exam process.

Feedback is important, and we should be clear to our students that exams are about getting the feedback to work on the right gaps. You can tell yourself the story that it is a measure of your ability; or you can have the story that this is a tool to increase your ability.