The pendulum swings to and fro and it’s gone from GCSE grades being exam only, to being a combination of teacher assessment and exams, and back to just exams.
Understandably, there are some concerns about bias on the part of teachers, but a recent research paper found that teacher assessments are accurate and comparable to the results achieved by examinations.
The pros and cons
The stress of the exam process can mean that some students’ performance doesn’t accurately reflect their true abilities. However, if you take away the exam, some students would not revise as thoroughly and could score lower in the less pressurised assessment process.
Clearly, if a student plans to pursue a professional career, they will have to sit exams at some point – whether at University or relating to professional qualifications. Arriving at this level with no experience of the exam room may put them at a disadvantage.
The GCSE exams are the gateway to a student’s future. They form the basis for demonstrating a level of knowledge and an ability to learn.
The challenge for many teachers may be that the curriculum is focused on getting through specific material, just to enable the students to get through an exam.
In a non-exam environment the approach to learning may be less prescriptive and allow more discussion and exploration guided by the students’ interests. However, it can be more difficult to learn this way as there is a time constraint to get through the required material.
Preparing a portfolio of work for assessment or ongoing assessment is something that also happens in the workplace. Not only would some assessment based on actual work provide a measure of the student’s level of achievement, but would also be a preparation for the world of work.