Exams! Exams Everywhere! Part Two.

In part one I mentioned how I struggle to empathise with nervy students on the account of never being one. Here in Spain, young children are introduced to the idea of assessment from a young age, arguably younger than in Britain or Ireland. From the outside as their English teacher who isn’t connected to their school, we’re told it’s one ‘exam’ after the other. I was soon to find out thay said exams were only monthly unit tests.

And yet, we in the profession are often faced with moans and complaints from students who struggle to do the homework, or claim they are tired due to the ‘montón’ of ‘exams’ they have.

In the language school I work for, we also have monthly evaluation by way of continuous assessment. Yet when you give them the one-week warning, the response is naturally cold. ‘ANOTHER EXAM!?’ they moan. I constantly reassure them that it’s a test, not an exam. Exams determine things, tests well…don’t. To this date it still hasn’t gotten through to them.

One good thing that comes from your students having plenty of tests in school is that their behaviour when it comes to sitting an exam is generally good. The vast majority of students come in on exam day and are ready to face whatever is thrown at them. Following weeks and months of standing, it was time to sit down and embrace quietness in the Spanish classroom. I’ll admit it was blissful for a period.

I joked with my colleagues how easily your mood changes in this job. With exams looming, it was nice to switch track to revision, and shift the onus from you to them. Soon you got tired of revision, and were happy to do something different in the way of oral exams, only for two days of hearing the same mistakes to make you long for a return to controlled exams. Now, having corrected and filed my reports, I find myself more than happy to return to the normal classes I was at one point delighted to see the back of. It’s an amusing cycle.

During the controlled exams, I couldn’t help but wonder what my students were thinking, and which ones I saw my younger self in. Some of them looked calm, others less so. I caught a few staring out my window, which is frosted over so God knows what they were looking at. Others meanwhile wrote their answers painfully slow to the point of you wondering if they would finish inside the allotted time.

‘I’m finished,’ after only 20-25 minutes is always dreaded however, though two of my strongest results finished with half the time remaining to their credit. You always have to make sure you always have a contingency for fast finishers. ‘Read your book,’ was always the answer. They read their book; they got tired of their book. I ended up giving one of them the ‘impossible’ DOG word search; the other one was given a Rubix’s cube I kept in my drawer.

The former never found dog in the end.

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