The problem with teaching for exams

If I ever had a passion in life it would be education and the gift of both learning and teaching – it’s why I am a massive fan of edX and have been doing a course called “Judaism Through Its Scriptures”.

Now with this passion, I have been involved in pretty much most of the stages of academia – I have been a student in Further & Higher Education, I have taught at Higher Level Education, and I have been a teaching assistant at a few of those levels and I have noticed a major problem that happens and it’s to do with exams. 

You are allowed to close the page down now as this isn’t anything new but a major problem is binary answers in exams – you are either right or wrong which is fine but it fails to reflect on the only major skill that is used in the workplace – problem-solving and research. Let’s take two professions that are “highly skilled” – doctors and programmers.

Neither of those two professionals needs you to know everything – you only need to know where to look and how to apply that research to your problem. Let’s say they have an unknown illness – they look up what’s wrong, find the variables of the disease and then look up ways how to test their best-educated guess and if right treat it, otherwise carry on the research. It is for this reason that the subject history is liked by employers as it shows you can do research and decide on a judgement based on the answers you come up with.

Problem-solving and researching are very vital and while I can not deny some jobs do need to know facts (you would not want a first aider or a medical responder to be looking up at a book about why their patient is crashing), we have a problem with exams that forces people (primary children in this case) to remember a bunch of information and nothing else.

While students are forced to simply remember stuff it means they will not be taught about to do problem-solving or research and that rather than being taught useful skills and how to go about it, they just have answers forced down their throats so when that exam comes they can tick a box to say they had the right answer.

Problem-solving and researching are what exams should be about. I have long forgotten any question I have ever been asked on an exam but I can easily research any question and find out the answer I do not know about you but I would rather be able to find out the answers to the problems I have than hope that the problem I have to solve just happened to be one of the few exact answers that were fed to me.

There is a reason doctors know how to research, Rabbis know how to, lawyers know how to and many more and I can tell you now that the ones above do not know everything related to their subjects nor do they claim to – they know how to look up the answer and how to apply that to the problem at hand.

Need to reference?

Ellis, M. (2016). The problem with teaching for exams. [online] Snat's Narratives & Tales. Available at: [Accessed 07 Dec 2023].

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