Good Thing About Exams

Yes, there is a silver lining to your exam-related suffering.

Let’s face it: when you hear the word “exam”, you feel an instant chill go down your spine; that preconditioned dread, that compulsion to groan, that out-of-nowhere nervousness, even if only for a second (and even if it’s not in the context of an exam you have to take). It’s something we all feel, almost instinctively.

Your friend tells you he has an exam, and you thank your stars you’re not in his shoes. Your teacher utters the word and you simultaneously remember all the exams you’ve taken in your life, while foreseeing the impending doom of those that are to come.

I’m not talking about full-blown panic here, but we can all relate to that anxiety-loaded word triggering negative, stressful feelings.

There is, however, a positive side to having your knowledge tested in an exam. Most students reading this will already have their objections at the ready. Some even say exams cloud your knowledge with anxiety and inhibit your access of required neurological pathways, with the ever-present time limit ticking away at the forefront of your thoughts.

However, if you can remember that the purpose of any assessment is to test your knowledge, and to ensure that what you have understood from your materials is applicable to more than just the initial examples you were given, you can see that the exam setting is actually the most effective way of demonstrating your aptitude.

To put it simply, if you can answer the question in the exam environment, you’ll likely be able to answer the question anywhere.

Exams are structured around assessing the knowledge that exists in your head, without access to the internet, without phoning a friend, and without finding a wiki article and then using one of the references at the bottom of the page to maintain the facade that you’re above using Wikipedia.

Of course, exams are stressful and some otherwise reliable students suddenly lose their knowledge as a result of their restrictive and intimidating nature. However, is there a better way to assess how they apply their knowledge outside of the classroom?

Before you object with all the reasons exams are terrible, soul-crushing, torturous heathen rituals, think about the possible scenarios you might be faced with in your ideal job. Think about the time limits of the real world, where you will need to be able to access that knowledge in the back of your brain somewhere among all those Simpsons quotes and Harry Potter spells you told yourself are indicative of your understanding of Latin. Being able to apply what you have been taught – without discussion, spell-check or reassurance* – is the most transparent method of ascertaining your level of comprehension to not only our examiner overlords but also to yourself.

Your application of knowledge in an exam is a reflection of the aptitude and abilities you can be confident in, as well as the areas that require further revision.

In this way, though we still get that chill down our spine as a reflex when the word is mentioned, there is, a positive side to exams.

*Author’s note: I had to phone a friend to remember the word “reassurance”. Oh sweet irony