Comment & Analysis
Oct 3, 2021

Can We Move on From Exams, Please?

Exams have lost their veil of immortality, yet some students will still return to the RDS this year.

By The Editorial Board

Exams were once a pedagogical superbug – resistant to all known forms of rhyme or reason. Then the pandemic hit and a cure was suddenly found.

It is stunning, in retrospect, that it took so long for exams to lose their veil of immortality. They are universally despised by those who sit them and those who set – and have to tediously correct – them. The skills they assess often lack any real-world application – memorisation and regurgitation are of little value in an increasingly technology-focused world. And now Trinity wants to bring them back.

There are, of course, notable exceptions, particularly in STEM and language courses, but in many cases exams are simply the tried and tested, rather than the most effective, way of assessing students.


College’s constant mantra of “our graduates are equipped with critical thinking skills” – as seen in the promotion of the Trinity Education Project (TEP) – stands in stark contrast to barely legible scripts written by caffeine-fueled candidates who will have forgotten most of what they wrote by the end of the day – if not blocked the event from their minds entirely.

And every single year, exam complaints and catastrophes litter the pages of this newspaper.

Yes, exams are necessary for some subjects – but for the vast majority of courses they should be redundant. The last two academic years have proved that definitively.

TEP was meant to solve the exam problem before the pandemic even started – nevermind nearly two years after the coronavirus had physically forced College to rethink assessments. However, it feels like Trinity has wasted 18 months fiddling with Zoom, instead of figuring out a new, innovative way of assessing students.

Trinity is often accused of bending to tradition at the expense of practicality, but the practice of cramming students into a freezing, echoey Simmonscourt is not among the fuzzy, sentimental quirks of Trinity such as Latin graduation ceremonies.

Trinity harps on about students being creative – “innovators and disruptors welcome” – but does it practise what it preaches?

It doesn’t take a whole exam booklet to answer that one. A simple “no” will suffice.