How important are exams?

Do exams define you and the rest of your life?

Picture of students graduating

When applying for jobs or University most candidates will have to fill out job applications with detailed descriptions of your examination results.  Many employers and interviewers will look at your results and for most our job path is defined by whether we passed an exam or failed it.  Indeed certain Universities (e.g. Oxford or Cambridge) won't even consider a student with below AAB A-level results.  Consequently my question is are we defined by examinations and how do our results affect our lives?

Indeed passing exams is important.  For example, you wouldn't want a doctor operating on you if they hadn't passed their surgery exams and gone through medical school.  However many famous entrepreneurs and famous people will openly admit to having failed some if not all of their exams. Jon Snow, Channel 4's news presenter, took two A-levels the first time round and failed one whilst only getting a C in English for the second.  He then later took Economics and Law and got a D and E.  He still went to University and earned a place studying Law.  Steven Spielberg was not accepted into their choice of university.  He was rejected twice by the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts.  Thomas Edison was told by his teachers he was too stupid to learn anything and he went on to create the light bulb after 10,000 attempts.  Sir Alan Sugar left school with one GCSE and still went on to become a millionaire, sit in the House of Lords and host The Apprentice.  Robbie Williams failed every single one of his GCSEs.  The list goes on and on and on...For more examples click here.

So why did these people succeed?  In an article published by The Telegraph in 2015 Peter Tait (Headmaster of Sherborne Preparatory School) pointed out that these people maybe had other qualities that helped them succeed.  These include creativity, perseverance, sense of purpose and a good work ethic.  As Henry Ford said "Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal".  Another way of looking at it is that failure leads to success and in order to succeed one needs to first fail.

Some people argue that exams are a sign of intelligence.  Maybe by this they mean exams are a sign of academic intelligence.  Peter Tait he points out that exams tend to ask the same style questions which are regurgitated in different formats.  He points out that exams allow "no original thought", stunt "creative thinking and intelligent responses".  Maybe students who pass their exams are simply well trained in passing exams not in measuring their intelligence which in itself is a life skill.  Furthermore as Peter points out maybe exams are more important for ranking schools and universities determining their places in league tables.  Maybe examinations have little measure on a student's life individually but are a group measure and comparison.

So if this is the case why are so many of us judged by our exam results?  One answer is that exams are important because they show a willingness to learn and study a subject.  Another is that examinations prepare a person for life and help a student develop life skills.  Also exams can help students develop life long love for learning which in my belief is what going to school is all about.

So are exams important?  Yes but in short they are not the be all and end all of life.  You can succeed if you want to.

What do you think?  Leave your comments below.

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