Most of us will remember furiously writing an essay as the time ticked away on a final exam but, as a parent do you think they are unfair? According to one influential charity, the requirement for essay writing in an exam setting is unfair, as essay writing isn’t suitable for all pupils.

National youth charity, Young Scott says that exams should be made longer to remove some of the time pressure that students experience. The influential charity has also issued a call for the format of final exams to be changed, well less emphasis placed on the outcome of the exam and more of the work completed in the class room counted towards a final grade.

The comments from Young Scott have been promoted by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA). It pioneered a range of classroom-based assessments as part of a new curriculum but following feedback that it consumed too much teaching time, the importance of those assessments has been downgraded. SQA has been soliciting feedback on the system in order to decide where to go next.

In a report outlining its response, Young Scott posed a number of reasons why written exams should be amended. Amongst them it said:

“Essay writing in timed conditions forms a large part of academic assessment, but it may not be fit for purpose and can have negative consequences for young people who are not suited to this form of assessment.”

It also noted that not all courses have a heavy focus on essay writing through the academic year, meaning that a timed essay as part of an exam isn’t always a suitable form of assessment.

The report when on to also say, “Essays may not be successfully capturing a person’s written communication ability, and having so many of them may disproportionately disadvantage candidates who are not good at communicating this way.”

What should be changed?

Young Scott laid out a raft of suggestions in its final report to the SQA. Amongst them, it called for exam times to be extended so students aren’t subjected to a test of how fast they can write – with restrictive timings adding to stress, increasing pressure and inhibiting the student from turning in their best work.

It also said that students should be given keyboards, so those with poor handwriting aren’t at a disadvantage on essay questions. The charity also called for more practical life skills to be taught rather than “teaching students how to pass exams” saying it wanted to see things like teaching students  about taxes, nutrition, communication and interview skills take precedence over end of year exams.

Do you agree that essay writing is unfair and the format of final exams should be changed? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments and on our social media.