Examining exams. Are there credible alternatives to written exams?

Over 300 years since the first written exam was used in the English education system, this traditional form of assessment continues to divide opinion.  To their supporters, written exams provide a rigorous test of students’ knowledge and understanding that acts as a source of motivation as well as a sound basis for progression onto university or employment. Indeed, Prime Ministers, Education Secretaries, Schools Ministers and regulators have publicly stated that written exams are the ‘best and fairest’ way to measure pupils’ attainment. Meanwhile, critics argue that written exams are narrow assessments that focus too much on memorisation and fail to provide students with the wide range of skills that they need for later life and work.


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