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Are exams just a test of memory?

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    This is a topic which i have often thought about.

    Are exams a test of nothing more than memory?

    To me it seems that exams based on a subject which needs revising shows only how skilled you are in remembering things.

    I'm currently studying a National Diploma in Engineering, with no exams, only c/w.

    And I think this is brilliant. I have shown in my work that have the have understood every I need to and I have the work to look back on for when I need to. It is written in a way that I understand and I don't need to remember all of it.

    If I were to have exams I'm certain my grades would be poor, although without I've achieve 100% in all areas.

    Now this could be down to me having a bad memory or not being exceptionally good at revising (or wanting to revise)

    But does anyone agree? or disagree?
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    no, exams are a test of motivation, and how long you can sustain it. short term memory also plays a role yes, but not as much as motivation. provided you're above a certain intelligence threshold, anyone can get top marks , if you are commited enough
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    In a lot of exams that seems to be the case (which is quite annoying) but in others it's more about understanding.

    I do the IB but I'll continue anyway. With things like history, you can have all the facts in the world but if you don't argue well enough then you won't get a good mark. Same with philosophy.

    In physics, yes it does help to remember things (quite a bit) but not understanding why something happens means that you can't apply them to different scenarios.

    I think exams should be less of just throwing facts onto a page and actually comprehending things and understanding them properly. But then again, I guess if you understand something, you're more likely to remember it anyway.
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    Exam are a test of applied knowledge, ergo, not a memory test.
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    In my opinion exams are a test of memory and how quick you can write.....I think it's stupid that you have so little time to write so much, as you may know all the answers, but get rubbish marks as you run out of time before you can get everything down on the paper.
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    (Original post by yothi5)
    Exam are a test of applied knowledge, ergo, not a memory test.
    Why don't you just write 'therefore' or write the whole thing in Latin? :lol:
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    Exams are a little bit of memory and understanding. However, memory is easier to overcome than being able to understand what you have learnt and apply it to different scenarios. If you are great at applying information but can't remember it easily, a bit of hard work will help you remember it. Same can't be said for trying to apply the information, that requires a lot more effort, and in some cases it is out of some peoples reach. This is what makes understanding more important than memory.
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    (Original post by chickenonsteroids)
    Why don't you just write 'therefore' or write the whole thing in Latin? :lol:
    But ergo has been assimilated into the English language :confused:
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    It depends on the exam really, if you are taking an exam that requires to memorise facts, its pretty much testing your memory, other exams will require you to solve problems which is really a test of your understanding.
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    (Original post by pizzle223)
    This is a topic which i have often thought about.

    Are exams a test of nothing more than memory?

    To me it seems that exams based on a subject which needs revising shows only how skilled you are in remembering things.

    I'm currently studying a National Diploma in Engineering, with no exams, only c/w.

    And I think this is brilliant. I have shown in my work that have the have understood every I need to and I have the work to look back on for when I need to. It is written in a way that I understand and I don't need to remember all of it.

    If I were to have exams I'm certain my grades would be poor, although without I've achieve 100% in all areas.

    Now this could be down to me having a bad memory or not being exceptionally good at revising (or wanting to revise)

    But does anyone agree? or disagree?
    Well, at least some part of most exams will be about memorising material/formulae. However, in almost all exams there willl be parts about technique and ability. Look at an Economics exam - you'll be asked definitions etc. from memory, but then you have to write an essay. Look at Maths - sure, you need to remember formulae and basic methods, but often questions come along which you're not prepared for and you need to think about how you're going to tackle them. Languages - either all about memory or not at all, depending on how you look at it. Of course you have to remember how to speak the language, but other than that it's all about your ability.
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    (Original post by chickenonsteroids)
    In a lot of exams that seems to be the case (which is quite annoying) but in others it's more about understanding.

    I do the IB but I'll continue anyway. With things like history, you can have all the facts in the world but if you don't argue well enough then you won't get a good mark. Same with philosophy.

    In physics, yes it does help to remember things (quite a bit) but not understanding why something happens means that you can't apply them to different scenarios.

    I think exams should be less of just throwing facts onto a page and actually comprehending things and understanding them properly. But then again, I guess if you understand something, you're more likely to remember it anyway.
    I understand what you mean about the history side of things and showing the ability to analyses sources ect.. but I still feel that having a week to write what you would write in a exam seem a lot fairer that having an hour. Many other aspects climb into the fact your're sitting an exam, for example, some people read faster than others, some people write faster than others. Both can affect the result. If I knew that i was a slower writer than most then I would have to leave certain points out which others may have managed to fit in due to the speed at which they write.
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    (Original post by pizzle223)
    I understand what you mean about the history side of things and showing the ability to analyses sources ect.. but I still feel that having a week to write what you would write in a exam seem a lot fairer that having an hour. Many other aspects climb into the fact your're sitting an exam, for example, some people read faster than others, some people write faster than others. Both can affect the result. If I knew that i was a slower writer than most then I would have to leave certain points out which others may have managed to fit in due to the speed at which they write.
    That's paper 1. Paper 2 + 3 (the essay ones) is what i'm talking about.
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    Yes and No. Take a history exam, on the Cold War for example. Yes it is testing you ability to remember a large amount of information about the Cold War; Dates, Treaties, leaders and what not. But it also needs your understanding of the why they were important and how they fitted in the overall picture. A teacher might be able to tell you it, but it takes real understanding of the topic to do it well enough and demonstrate original thought.

    In an English exam you might remember the teacher said that in Lord of the Flies the island was a microcosm of the war happening around it but if you have no examples to back this up from the literature and can't explain why it reinforces your claim then you won't get very high marks.

    Also in Maths you learn a method and have to apply it to sort out questions you have never seen, which is not merely a memory test.
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    Higher level exams (ie some A-levels and most university exams) require a lot of ability to manipulate knowledge and therefore use your own intelligence not just memory. Of course, this brings its own problems as you could argue that exams should be a test of hard work not innate intelligence (I don't, but you could).

    GCSEs you can probably pass with good marks if you are solely good at remembering stuff (I'm not putting them down, they are just a different type of exam). I don't have a problem with this though, as so long as it's been forced into your memory once you have a good chance of recalling it when required.

    The problem with coursework is that given time practically anyone could get a good mark, though maybe that isn't such a bad thing if it means everyone works hard and understands the material. I do have a problem with timed exams though, as they are always a rush - why not just give everyone an extra half hour, or add one less question? What is the point in panicking people who might be perfectly capable otherwise?

    Finally, I think they should have a set mark for people to get each grade, not a standardised percentage - it should be possible for everyone in the country to get an A at once, or a C etc, rather than basing your score on those of your peers.

    tl;dr: There's no perfect way to assess people, but meanwhile I should be made education minister, and ruler of the known world.
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    I'd say partly yes eg in geography it's just learning all the different points however in subjects like Maths it's problem solving - you need to be able to solve problems and in the exam you are not regurgitating a solution because every question is different. Also in English and Modern Studies yes there is memory involved but you have to be able to construct essays on the spot and to do that you have to understand the topic..
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    (Original post by chickenonsteroids)
    Why don't you just write 'therefore' or write the whole thing in Latin? :lol:
    Does it make a difference to you? Don't be petty.
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    (Original post by pizzle223)
    This is a topic which i have often thought about.

    Are exams a test of nothing more than memory?

    To me it seems that exams based on a subject which needs revising shows only how skilled you are in remembering things.

    I'm currently studying a National Diploma in Engineering, with no exams, only c/w.

    And I think this is brilliant. I have shown in my work that have the have understood every I need to and I have the work to look back on for when I need to. It is written in a way that I understand and I don't need to remember all of it.

    If I were to have exams I'm certain my grades would be poor, although without I've achieve 100% in all areas.

    Now this could be down to me having a bad memory or not being exceptionally good at revising (or wanting to revise)

    But does anyone agree? or disagree?
    This is an absolute joke right? :laugh: BTEC students are in no shape or form as intelligent as A level students. Instead of trying to denouce A levels for the biggest mistake in your life, you should congratulate us for the best decison of our lifes.

    Any idiot can do a BTEC, AND get high marks.

    Please come to the real world and see what you are doing is for..... :P you can fill the blanks...
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    (Original post by pizzle223)
    Now this could be down to me having a bad memory or not being exceptionally good at revising (or wanting to revise)
    I think you've partly answered this yourself. You not being good at exams has little to do with 'natural memory' and a lot more to do with you not trying.

    Exams, at least most exams, don't just test plain old knowledge. Never is an exam made up of 'write everything you can remember about this'. It's to do with thinking logically and analytically about the knowledge you do have and then applying that to answering questions.
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    Depends on the subject but yes I mostly agree with you, I don't many exams are very fair.
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    Maths exams are most certainly not

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Updated: June 19, 2014
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