Four hours to face a written exam, which in most parts of the world would be given less than half the time based on the number of questions speaks a lot about the perception of education in Sweden (at least true at Chalmers): the emphasis evidently is not on testing the pace at which solutions are presented, but to evaluate students’ depth of understanding concepts. And that simply is the success of Sweden in education, and hence in everything else we hear about the country topping in research, innovation and entrepreneurship.
Exams to me have been tedious writing and regurgitation exercises all through my schooling and even into my undergraduate studies. Three hours of grueling and in many cases mind-numbing page filling of answer scripts. When I was contemplating of taking up Masters, the only aspect of formal education that I had held with utmost contempt was the format of examinations.
With the choice of studying at Chalmers, I was all paranoid about facing my exams. I looked at the duration for every exam and it said 4 hours. I was expecting more tediousness!
But with two quarters, hence four exams done and in my third exam week I have no anxiety about the exams now (not to be confused with the anxiety about the course itself :P). The four hour duration in exams are not allocated as shallow time, wherein you get to while away as you are not expected to scribble into your answer booklet. In all my exams at Chalmers I have spent the entire four hours fighting within my head to figure out the solutions, which in the end yield the highest amount of gratification. A rote learning based, quote-from-memory type exam simply kills such thrills!
Even with the formula sheets, mathematics handbook and hand written notes that are allowed in almost all exams, thorough inquisition of a student’s understanding is the principle behind exams.
Another stark difference is the distribution of points between written exam and other processes throughout the course. Homework assignments, team projects, oral exams and quizzes throughout the quarter ease the pressure that otherwise mounts to the one volcanic point – the written examinations. On an average, in all courses I have taken, only about 55% of the points are to be scored in a written exam, while rest of it are distributed in other schemes of evaluation throughout the course. And this shared evaluation scheme benefits students immensely, as the learning is a continuous process and there is little chance of procrastinating the learning to the end of the course, just before exams, as one could do in classical exam-oriented courses.
In all, exams no longer are traumatising, but at worse could be deeemed as hectic hours of work before winding up a course. I’d still commit to the caption – exams are at ease here.