Why is it a bad thing if a school is an ‘exam factory’? Watch

Tolgarda
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I've seen the term 'exam factory' in educational discourse used as a pejorative. And I don't understand why, really. I'd see this is a positive epithet. It's what I'd want my school to be. I'm here to get results, not be lower in the league tables and mess around.

There is no shame in teaching to the test, because that still requires knowledge. If teaching to the test is a bad thing, the test is flawed, not the method. You should be teaching a qualification that helps your students, not one that is useless to them.

If schools are ranked in the league tables based on EBacc-subject results, they have every right to focus solely on that and beat the others, especially schools in the private sector, when parents are deciding where to send their child.

Nothing wrong with using any means legally possible to score high and be the best. I'd rather be an ‘exam factory’ than ranked low. Once again, if there's a problem with the league tables, the school's shouldn't be blamed for trying to game them. The system should be looked into more, but for what it currently is, it should be no surprise and not a bad thing that schools are thinking rationally and wanting to raise their results.

What are your thoughts?
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londonmyst
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Sometimes an exam factory can be a very stressful environment for both students and staff.
If the sole priority is exam success, other important elements of school can get sidelined- for example student's mental health, pshe related issues, combating bullying, safeguarding the most vulnerable students.
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Student135246
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I think people are trying to say that the school only focuses on exam results and they don’t really care about the students. Maybe the schools do get good exam results but often there is a lot of pressure on the students, which means their mental health and well-being may be affected.
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Tolgarda
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(Original post by londonmyst)
Sometimes an exam factory can be a very stressful environment for both students and staff.
If the sole priority is exam success, other important elements of school can get sidelined- for example student's mental health, pshe related issues, combating bullying, safeguarding the most vulnerable students.
(Original post by Student135246)
I think people are trying to say that the school only focuses on exam results and they don’t really care about the students. Maybe the schools do get good exam results but often there is a lot of pressure on the students, which means their mental health and well-being may be affected.
I accept both of these arguments; however, I honestly think the best students perform well under pressure.
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The RAR
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The first thing that comes into my mind when I hear "exam factory" is Brampton Manor, dunno why
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Tolgarda
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(Original post by The RAR)
The first thing that comes into my mind when I hear "exam factory" is Brampton Manor, dunno why
People love to find ways to put down others who are successful haha.
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Student135246
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(Original post by Tolgarda)
I accept both of these arguments; however, I honestly think the best students perform well under pressure.
Tbh I do agree. My school put a lot of pressure on us through exams (I did my gcses this summer) but for me it seemed to work as I came out with straight 9s! However, a lot of my friends struggled with mental health etc through exams and school were pretty useless with support for that kind of thing
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cf_99
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(Original post by Tolgarda)
I've seen the term 'exam factory' in educational discourse used as a pejorative. And I don't understand why, really. I'd see this is a positive epithet. It's what I'd want my school to be. I'm here to get results, not be lower in the league tables and mess around.

There is no shame in teaching to the test,
because that still requires knowledge
. If teaching to the test is a bad thing, the test is flawed, not the method. You should be teaching a qualification that helps your students, not one that is useless to them.

If schools are ranked in the league tables based on EBacc-subject results, they have every right to focus solely on that and beat the others, especially schools in the private sector, when parents are deciding where to send their child.

Nothing wrong with using any means legally possible to score high and be the best. I'd rather be an ‘exam factory’ than ranked low. Once again, if there's a problem with the league tables, the school's shouldn't be blamed for trying to game them. The system should be looked into more, but for what it currently is, it should be no surprise and not a bad thing that schools are thinking rationally and wanting to raise their results.

What are your thoughts?
You see, the test really can be flawed at times. Many "tests" are essentially "spew out the key words/phrases they're looking for" and learning off the essays. Seriously, I know a person who got an A in JC Irish from learning literally one essay off at the last minute and it came up in the exam. I'm doing Economics at the moment and it is horrendously marked, nothing assesses how well you can control an argument or the validity of your points. It's literally learning lists in a ridiculously precise manner and hope to God you don't lose marks (which you probably will). No discrimination between students who understand the material and no discrimination of how good your points are (it's either 3-5 marks or zero in those cases). It's frustratingly difficult for all the wrong reasons.

There are some exams that are done out well (such as Maths and English) but equally some that are done out in a terrible manner. It really is the test's fault at times.
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Tolgarda
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(Original post by Student135246)
Tbh I do agree. My school put a lot of pressure on us through exams (I did my gcses this summer) but for me it seemed to work as I came out with straight 9s! However, a lot of my friends struggled with mental health etc through exams and school were pretty useless with support for that kind of thing
Congratulations on your results. That's the spirit!


They're pretty useless because it's not necessarily their job. I really think the parents should help their children if they may have anxiety or some other form of 'mental health' issue. The teachers are there to teach and help you understand concepts. When I go to school and have had my self-confidence dented, I don't expect much from them. My sixth form has taught me to get back up and fight, and my parents are by my side. Recently, my confidence suffered a pretty big knock, but I know what to do.
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Lemur14
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Teaching to the test often doesn't help the student long term. For instance if they can answer the question when broken down and phrased as it is in exams then that's great but how does it help when the same skills need applying to a different scenario they haven't come across before?
Also there's more to school (and indeed life)than exam grades, being an exam factory doesn't help to produce well rounded students. In a business sense for the school being an exam factory is good because better results typically =more students=more money, but when thinking of the students individually and after school it isn't so beneficial.
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OR321
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Schools/Colleges/Universities are basically just made for money now. They encourage high results so they increase their reputation and get more students to join, this just gives them more money. In a business perspective this is obviously normal/fine, but for like public schools etc they should focus more on quality
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Tolgarda
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(Original post by cf_99)
You see, the test really can be flawed at times. Many "tests" are essentially "spew out the key words/phrases they're looking for" and learning off the essays. Seriously, I know a person who got an A in JC Irish from learning literally one essay off at the last minute and it came up in the exam. I'm doing Economics at the moment and it is horrendously marked, nothing assesses how well you can control an argument or the validity of your points. It's literally learning lists in a ridiculously precise manner and hope to God you don't lose marks (which you probably will). No discrimination between students who understand the material and no discrimination of how good your points are (it's either 3-5 marks or zero in those cases). It's frustratingly difficult for all the wrong reasons.
Tests, like most other systems, can be gamed. It usually doesn't bode well for the student that didn't decide to actually learn the content.

With regard to your second argument about the marking of economics, I struggle to buy it for two reasons: understanding and marking tools. First, when using key terms and phrases, you need to understand what they mean to use them correctly. If you just memorise a key term and its definition without understanding it, you are susceptible to misusing the term in an exam. Using terms in a precise manner shows that you have understood what they mean and how they can strengthen your argument. Secondly, examiners have marking tools that help them outline strong and weak arguments. If you look at the IBDP economics marking tools, you'll see it. I'm sure this is there at A Level too, especially for questions that are around 25 marks or so.

(Original post by cf_99)
There are some exams that are done out well (such as Maths and English) but equally some that are done out in a terrible manner. It really is the test's fault at times.
I have to agree here, sometimes the assessment design is poor.
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cf_99
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It's bad that it's an exam factory because people are completely unprepared for after school. School is merely a means to an end for most people. It should be a journey. I get that there has to be some element of it, but it seems like Britain isn't even trying to sort it out in a humane manner. Even Ireland is better (especially with TY, a non-academic year where you explore yourself as a person). League tables should absolutely be abolished (Ireland is doing just fine without them) and there should be way less bureaucracy imposed on teachers than there currently is (applies for Ireland too).
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Student135246
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(Original post by Tolgarda)
Congratulations on your results. That's the spirit!


They're pretty useless because it's not necessarily their job. I really think the parents should help their children if they may have anxiety or some other form of 'mental health' issue. The teachers are there to teach and help you understand concepts. When I go to school and have had my self-confidence dented, I don't expect much from them. My sixth form has taught me to get back up and fight, and my parents are by my side. Recently, my confidence suffered a pretty big knock, but I know what to do.
I guess you’re right - it’s not really their job. However I think the main issue at my school is that they claim that they’re ‘always there to help’ and you can always speak to them if you’re struggling etc, but they don’t actually care and they’re not really the right person to help. It would be better if they didn’t even pretend they could help you!!
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Tolgarda
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(Original post by Student135246)
I guess you’re right - it’s not really their job. However I think the main issue at my school is that they claim that they’re ‘always there to help’ and you can always speak to them if you’re struggling etc, but they don’t actually care and they’re not really the right person to help. It would be better if they didn’t even pretend they could help you!!
Now, this I can get behind. It's grossly unfair for them to lie to you like that. My sixth form never really tells me much of this, and any of it I don't believe haha.
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cf_99
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(Original post by Tolgarda)
Tests, like most other systems, can be gamed. It usually doesn't bode well for the student that didn't decide to actually learn the content.

With regard to your second argument about the marking of economics, I struggle to buy it for two reasons: understanding and marking tools. First, when using key terms and phrases, you need to understand what they mean to use them correctly. If you just memorise a key term and its definition without understanding it, you are susceptible to misusing the term in an exam. Using terms in a precise manner shows that you have understood what they mean and how they can strengthen your argument. Secondly, examiners have marking tools that help them outline strong and weak arguments. If you look at the IBDP economics marking tools, you'll see it. I'm sure this is there at A Level too, especially for questions that are around 25 marks or so.



I have to agree here, sometimes the assessment design is poor.
I'm not entirely against this form of marking, I'm against how much of an emphasis there is on it. Not to mention that marking schemes change year on year so it's a guessing game whether they'd accept it or not. I would much rather that they ask more difficult questions than ask easy ones while artificially increasing the difficulty by having the most obnoxious marking scheme possible.

For example, Physics does it well. It strikes a good balance between definitions (which are actually marked reasonably) and applied questions that test understanding. The subjects are not that different so I don't see why one is good while the other is not.
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Tolgarda
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(Original post by Lemur14)
Teaching to the test often doesn't help the student long term. For instance if they can answer the question when broken down and phrased as it is in exams then that's great but how does it help when the same skills need applying to a different scenario they haven't come across before?
Also there's more to school (and indeed life)than exam grades, being an exam factory doesn't help to produce well rounded students. In a business sense for the school being an exam factory is good because better results typically =more students=more money, but when thinking of the students individually and after school it isn't so beneficial.
Exams are written by experts who allow students to not only show their factual recall, but also apply their knowledge in unfamiliar contexts. While content must be learnt, students should also be able to use their knowledge when needed in novel ways.

You can build yourself as a character outside of school. In countries like South Korea and Singapore, who rank above England, you never hear any talk of this ‘exam factory’ stuff and about student's futures. They don't seem to be falling on their knees just yet.
(Original post by OR321)
Schools/Colleges/Universities are basically just made for money now. They encourage high results so they increase their reputation and get more students to join, this just gives them more money. In a business perspective this is obviously normal/fine, but for like public schools etc they should focus more on quality
Exam results do show quality.

(Original post by cf_99)
It's bad that it's an exam factory because people are completely unprepared for after school. School is merely a means to an end for most people. It should be a journey. I get that there has to be some element of it, but it seems like Britain isn't even trying to sort it out in a humane manner. Even Ireland is better (especially with TY, a non-academic year where you explore yourself as a person). League tables should absolutely be abolished (Ireland is doing just fine without them) and there should be way less bureaucracy imposed on teachers than there currently is (applies for Ireland too).
Education has always been there to produce a nice, docile workforce. A good economic unit that can raise productivity and help the country succeed in a global economy. This is my opinion of it anyway. I think league tables are fine, although that is a moot point.
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JamesManc
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Well I think you are right, the testing system is wrong not the people trying to pass the tests.
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Tolgarda
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(Original post by cf_99)
I'm not entirely against this form of marking, I'm against how much of an emphasis there is on it. Not to mention that marking schemes change year on year so it's a guessing game whether they'd accept it or not. I would much rather that they ask more difficult questions than ask easy ones while artificially increasing the difficulty by having the most obnoxious marking scheme possible.

For example, Physics does it well. It strikes a good balance between definitions (which are actually marked reasonably) and applied questions that test understanding. The subjects are not that different so I don't see why one is good while the other is not.
A definition is a definition really. You either know the semantics and how to use it to your advantage, or you don't. The experts who write the papers aren't stupid, and they probably create the mark schemes the way they do so that there is no ambiguity in the marking process when definitions are involved.

Is this for GCSE or A Level, by the way?
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999tigger
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You dont learn a subject, just how to do the exam.
Means less rounded, less flexible and poorer adjusted students.
Different people value different things.
Not everyone is good at exams.
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