Thoughts on the Exam vs. Coursework Debate

Recently I’ve come to realise that my blog has lacked my “thoughts on” certain topics. So, in order to include this more often, I thought I would share my thoughts on the exams vs. coursework debate. After all, I had my first exam yesterday, and it is exam season.

Firstly, I’ll begin with my belief that exams – in most instances – only test memory, whilst coursework tests comprehension. I appreciate coursework can be longer, but with that you get the chance to improve through a constant re-draft process. With an exam, although it is only one instance, the procedure of spending weeks – if not, months – learning information again to pass exams isn’t really a good practice, is it? Surely we should value our ability to comprehend information (coursework), rather than recall information at will (exams)?

However, there are also examples where the pressures of an exam are appropriate – most likely for its ability to be confidential or unknown. The best two cases of this are so-called ‘unseen texts’ in the A-Level English Literature exams, and the ability to “write on demand” when it comes to Creative Writing. In those cases, the use of an exam is fair enough.

Lastly, with coursework, there is no pressure, which means you can focus more. Basically, the idea of coursework should be encouraged and used more often. Either coursework needs to replace exams completely, or exams as a method of testing needs a complete redesign.

What do you think? Which do you think is better: exams or coursework? Comment below!


This post is a bonus post after I forgot to write a post on Wednesday – sorry!


4 thoughts on “Thoughts on the Exam vs. Coursework Debate

  1. In my first year of teaching, exams were still the only way in which Year 12 students were tested at the end of the year. I had a student who wrote some wonderful essays during the year and should have had an A. But she couldn’t handle exams – she just couldn’t. So she only got a C for English. Exams just give exclusive private schools the chance to spoon feed their students to get good marks, which are useless to them once they get to university and nobody is pushing them any more. At the same time, if you ARE relying on coursework it needs to be moderated, because otherwise individual schools have different standards. And no matter what you do, there are tutors who are paid to do the work for students and these days there are whole WEBSITES that help students to cheat. I’ve had spam emails from some of them. So perhaps a mixture of both is best.


    • I agree – the pressure of exams is not ideal, but at the same time, the procedure surrounding coursework needs to be a bit more streamlined…

      Thanks for commenting!



  2. I see the good & bad sides of both! As I’m currently doing English & History A-Level, both of these subjects have coursework & exams attached to them. The problem (for me, at least) with coursework is I cant motivate myself to do it – whereas with an exam I can motivate myself to revise & learn the information in a fun, interesting way. Maybe writing a 2000 word essay just doesn’t excite me enough! (Probably not a good thing as I’ll hopefully be studying law at uni in September and that’s all about the essays… oh well!)
    Olivia xxx


    • Ah, I love writing! I prefer writing without pressure so that’s why I’ve always loved coursework!

      Oh wow! I love law – it’s so interesting! Enjoy!



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