In England, the two main ways to assess students’ performances are coursework and exams respectively. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority has recently proposed to scrap coursework in favour of full scale exams because according to their report, coursework has become less valid.
People have argued that nerves often get the better off them in exams whereas they find little difficulty doing coursework. To be honest, I reckon it’s quite fair to give people a chance this way, although I myself am happy doing exams. Coursework gives people complete freedom as they can go onto a computer, delete and edit things they way they like. There is also an opportunity for them to properly research stuff.
Despite the fact that I never complained about coursework, I have to say that I would have preferred to do all exams. I reckon coursework can sometimes be unfair as parents, teachers and mates can give too much help. In addition, the growing use of Internet can also result in an extremely uneven playing field, where a C grade student can hardly be distinguished from an A grade student because they were allowed countless redrafts, given loads and loads of help and could then potentially end up with unfairly high marks.
Regardless of its drawbacks, coursework does have its major advantage too; students can feel more confident going into the exam as they’ve already got some marks in the bag. However, there is also a problem that tutors don’t always get the marking accurately and your final results could get moderated down. It would be quite a blow for anyone to be told that they’d got an A for their coursework and hence felt secure, only to later discover that it was actually worth a mere B or less.
That happened with my Geography coursework and I have to say it’s not nice at all. Maybe the idea of open book exams supported by many seems a viable alternative because it is not all about memorising and also minimises the problem of cheating. And certain subjects such as maths and science should not have coursework because it is rather pointless, though science could just have a practical exam instead.
As far as I’m concerned, students in modern English education have a bit too much coursework, and they are also over examined. However, if I was doing it again I would still rather do all exams, particularly at A level. During A-levels most people had to do quite a few papers for two full weeks and although I think it’s not so healthy I believe it taught me to learn to cope under extreme pressure and time constraints.
To scrap coursework might be good once and for all. I fully appreciate that some people find exams very stressful and as a result they might not be able to perform to the best of their academic abilities. With that said, there has to be some method of student assessment and no single method is perfect for everyone. Given the ease and prevalence of cheating in coursework, it’s blindingly obvious that a purely exam based system, in spite of any disadvantages it may cause some students, is a lot safer from cheating.