Do away with trial exams

Friday September 7, 2012

http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2012/9/7/focus/11982676&sec=focus

I REFER to the issue of the school trial exams that are drawing near “Bent on acing exams” (Sunday Star, Sept 2) and “Investigate if exam leaks are true” (The Star, Sept 5). In my opinion trial exams as practised now should be done away with.

In yesteryears, schools had their own trial exams. These were very much like the annual end-of-the-year exams.

The exam schedule was such that a minimum number of days were used. This was to ensure that there would still be time for revision/remedial classes before the real exams.

Then, came the “transformation”! Some thinkers thought it right to have common trial exams for all schools.

It was argued that some schools might not have experienced teachers to set questions of good quality and standard. Their students might thus be disadvantaged.

Also, students should have a “run and feel” of the real exam. Therefore, all subjects should have the full number of papers as in the real exam.

In addition, not only were there trial exams at state level, there were also trial exams specially catered for residential schools, science schools and technical/vocational schools.

As a result, students in such schools would sit for more than one trial exam.

A trial exam for PMR/SPM/STPM may take up to two/three weeks or more and they are usually held a least a month before the real exams.

Time has to be allocated for the actual trial exam, teachers to mark the answer scripts and remedial classes after that.

What is the reality on the ground? The long trial exam period together with its “severity” gives students the impression that formal lessons are over.

After the exams, the students are in no mood to go back to school.

They stay home purportedly to do self-study and wait for the real exams to begin.

With the abundance of past year exam papers and sample questions books available in the market, I do not see the need for a trial to give students the “run and feel” of a real exam.

Students can easily purchase these books and teachers can use them for practice in class.

As for questions leakages, this is not to be unexpected.

After the papers are set, a district or state level committee is designated to print and distribute the papers to all the schools.

Normally the printing is outsourced. Schools, district education offices and even the state education department have not the status, amenities, and the “power” of the official Ministry-level Examination Syndicate/Council.

The question papers and the whole administration of trial exams do not fall under the ambit of the Official Secret Acts (OSA).

No one can really be prosecuted for “leaking” trial exam questions.

There are many reasons why questions are and can be “leaked”.

Students (and their parents) unduly worry that their performance in the trial exam may affect their chance of being selected for scholarship awards or admission to college/university.

No scholarships or admissions of substance are granted purely on trial exam results.

The awards and admissions are always based on the actual exam results.

Without the trial exam, students get more time for their lessons.

Teachers instead of marking answer scripts should use the time to discuss past year exam questions in class.

Full scale exams as are done now actually deprive students of valuable learning time.

And, most important of all, without the trial exams, schools do not get into exam, “no-lesson” mode too early.

It is time to seriously consider doing away with all trial exams.

LIONG KAM CHONG
Seremban