1. I don’t disagree that exams are often used in places where they are not the most appropriate form of assessment. But that does not mean that they should be scrapped. Employers still expect exams, they are used during recruitment processes and many employers expect their workforce to take professional exams during their life.

    Contract cheating remains a real issue. The latest estimates are that 15% of students have done this at least once, so it is not a problem that can be ignored. For many tutors (and PhD students), adding more essays, assessments and presentations is not an option. There is simply not time to mark them properly. An essay plan is very easy to outsource.

    More considered assessment is needed. If exams are not fit for purpose, why not? Could an alternative type of controlled assessment be used? Could practical elements be assessed? Why do exams need to be handwritten on paper? There certainly is a need to verify the person who did the work is the student who is being assessed, but that is not the only reason why exams do have a place.

  2. What about mini vivas? You write an essay, then appear before a small jury of one or two. Part 1, they ask you to elaborate a point of your essay OF THEIR CHOOSING (similar but not just repeating your writing: maybe on a specific example, maybe a generalisation, maybe a different application of the same principle). Part 2, Q&A to test your ability to think deeper on a topic related.

    Part 1 raises the costs of contract cheating and plagiarism significantly, and tests your ability to reformulate on the spot, part 2 tests your ability to think on your feet and rewards deep understanding as opposed to pre-learned patterns.

    It’s time consuming on the examiner side but not necessarily much more than grading essays and it’s a piece of the assessment in its own right.


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