Magoosh GRE

Preferred methods of testing – exams or essays?

| October 17, 2011 | 0 Comments

In order to judge a student’s performance, institutions perform a series of tests including coursework, exams and presentations throughout the academic year.  However, it is becoming more and more common for lecturers and teaching staff to recognise that not all students respond to the same forms of testing.  Therefore, gradually a shift is being made, offering increased support to students who may be struggling. 

Both exams and essays (usually described as coursework) have their benefits and drawbacks, which we will discuss here.

Exams usually involve an essay, usually on a topic that is only disclosed once the test has begun, that is undertaken within a set period of time.  This requires that students enter the exam room with all the knowledge already in their head, which they will have gained from lessons or lectures and their own research.  Exams test a student’s retention of this information and their ability to apply it to the questions at hand.  Coursework, on the other hand, can be completed over a longer period of time with access to materials such as online journals, articles and books.  Coursework is more likely to involve choosing your own topic to writer about, establishing your ability to research a subject and then form a cohesive answer.  In many cases, coursework represents your own opinion on the subject, while exams test core knowledge.

Both methods will accurately reflect a student’s ability to understand the question at hand, but many find extra pressure applied during exams can be off-putting.  The answers required for essays tend to be longer and this can cause problems for those who are unable to expand their answers further in time-sensitive conditions.

In short, there is no right or wrong answer to whether students prefer exams or coursework, as success depends on the individual student.  Many prefer the adrenaline fuelled atmosphere of exams and will only begin coursework when a deadline looms.  Others prefer to operate under less pressure, and it is likely that they would prefer to complete coursework over a longer period of time.

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Category: International Student Guide

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