Exams And Assessments In Education

Exams versus Assessments

The primary concern for teachers is their students’ ability to understand the concepts taught in class. Thus, there are many methods teachers can use to measure the students’ understanding ability and the level of knowledge they have attained, although, it is up to the teacher to decide the best method (Prozesky, 2001). According to Prozesky (2001), exams and assessments are the two major methods used to monitor the students’ learning and understanding. Prozesky (2001) further explains that there are many differences and similarities between exams and assessments, which can be used to determine the best method. In this essay, the two methods will be compared and contrasted. This will be done by focusing on three main points including purpose/aim, time, and place, which will be discussed in that particular order, in the three paragraphs that follow. While many would argue that exams and assessments are more similar than different, because of their purpose/aim, time, and the place was taken, these also draw clear differences that show they are more different than similar.

With regards to the purpose/aim, both exams and assessments share some similarities; however, they also vary as well. They are similar as both provide feedback to assessors and examiners on the subject matter. The two are based on specific examination questions or assessment provided by examiners or assessors. Alternatively, exams and assessments are different especially regarding their focus and basis. Exams mainly focus on determining the learners’ ability to meet the objectives required by the set standards (William et al., 2004). Examiners sort and rank learners according to their performance and determine their move to the next level. The focus is on providing summative feedback (Bergen and Lane, 2014). However, assessment’s main focus is to provide feedback on the learner’s performance and areas for improvement. Students are neither rank nor sort. The focus is on formative feedback (Gibbs and Simpson, 2004). Examiners give examinations to the learners and answers marked as per the requirements of set standards, but an assessment is an observation of the points indicating the learners’ weaknesses and strengths (Bergen and Lane, 2014; William, et al., 2004). Therefore, based on the discussion above, teachers have to consider which, between formative and summative feedback, the best way to examine or assess students is.


Another point of comparison between exams and assessments is timing. They are both given during a stipulated period. That is, both exams and assessments are given in stages within a term or semester, and are allocated a particular time frame/limit be it hours, days or weeks (Gibbs and Simpson, 2004). However, the two also vary based on time frames (amount of time allowed to take them). Exams can be spread out over the semester to give learners adequate time to receive feedback on the previous exams and while sitting them, students are often limited in terms of time (Gibbs and Simpson, 2004). For examples, most exams are done over 1, 2, or 3 hour periods, with no extension. On the contrary, assessments have flexible timing in that it allows observations and conversations by assessors to mediate judgments made regarding students’ performance (Gibbs and Simpson, 2004). Learners benefit from the feedbacks and focus their time on improving their weaknesses. Assessment timing allows assessors to determine how learners are understanding concepts in class, and thus react accordingly. Based on the above, teachers have a variety of differences to influence their decision on the best method of ensuring that students do their best in education.

Lastly, another aspect of comparison between exams and assessments is place. One can argue that exams are similar to assessments because both are taken at a precise location (Lily, et al., 2018). The argument is that no matter how different the locations can be, they serve as the place where the student will comfortably take the assignment or exam. These places are often selected based on their environment as the best in which the student can take their exams or assessments with no interruptions (Lily, t al., 2018). However, it is clear that most assignments are take-away meaning can be done at home or whenever place the students feels good about. On the contrary, exams are invigilated and are always taken in pre-determined rooms where a silent and free-from interruptions environment is always the best (Lily, et al., 2018). However, Lily, et al., (2018) asserts that learning and teaching can become learner-centered when moved from the confines of rooms into the fields, and this shows the superiority of assessments over exams, in which alongside it, teachers can chose which the best method of assessment and location is.

In conclusion, the essay agrees on the fact that exams and assessments are only similar in a few ways as regards their purpose, time, and place. However, it is evident that their differences surpass similarities. Therefore, it can be concluded that they are more different than similar, and these differences serve as the main points for teachers to consider the best method of understanding students’ ability to learn and gain knowledge.

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  • Bergen, P.V. and Lane, R., 2014, Exams might be stressful, but they improve learning. [Online] Available at:
  • Gibbs, G. and Simpson, C., 2004, “Does your assessment support your student's learning?” Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, 1(2004), pp.3-31.
  • Lily Claiborne, John Morrell, Joe Bandy and Derek Bruff, 2018, “Teaching Outside the Classroom” m/ [Accessed: August, 31st 2018]
  • Prozesky, D., 2001, “Assessment of Learning,” Community Eye Health, 14(38), pp.27–28.
  • Wiliam, D., Lee, C., Harrison, C. and Black, P., 2004, “Teachers developing assessment for learning: Impact on student achievement” Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 11(1), pp.49-65.

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