IELTS Writing Task 2: Formal examinations or continuous assessment?

Formal examinations are the only effective way to assess a student’s performance. Continuous assessment such as coursework and projects is not a satisfactory way to do this. To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement?

A student’s performance during a test is crucial to appraising their academic success. Although some claim that formal examinations are the only effective way to assess whether a student has met the learning objectives, I am convinced that continuous assessment methods, such as group and individual projects, are equally powerful evaluation tools and, depending on the type of knowledge measured, more satisfactory for evaluating a student’s understanding of the course taught. This essay will explore some of the weaknesses of formal examinations while emphasising the benefits of continuous assessment, ultimately challenging the idea that exams are the exclusive reliable method for probing students’ knowledge.

Formal examinations have long been regarded as the yardstick with which knowledge can be effectively measured because they are standardized and able to assess a wide range of topics. Despite this common belief, however, formal exams are affected by multiple limitations that ultimately challenge their effectiveness. To begin with, exams are often a source of intense pressure and stress for students, and this stymies their ability to showcase the full range of their skills. This stress can lead to anxiety, affecting students’ focus and concentration, and poor focus can result in lower grades that may not reflect a student’s real knowledge of the subject. In addition to these drawbacks, exams also tend to encourage rote memorization and recitation of information for exam-taking purposes rather than promoting critical thinking and creativity. It is common knowledge that studying with the sole purpose of passing exams does not lead to long-term retention. Moreover, due to their narrow focus on a specific point in time, exams fail to portray the holistic development of a student’s knowledge and skills over an extended period.

Continuous assessment methods that include homework and individual or group projects present several advantages over formal examinations. To start with, they provide students with an opportunity to demonstrate their understanding and application of knowledge in a more natural and authentic manner. When working on group projects, for instance, students can demonstrate their ability to take initiative and to use problem-solving skills, while individual projects may allow learners to show their independence and creativity. All of these are vital not only for their development as individuals, but also in their future careers. Additionally, by allowing for ongoing feedback, continuous assessment encourages skill development throughout the learning process. Unlike formal exams that provide a one-time snapshot, continuous assessment methods encourage students to engage in self-reflection, identify their strengths and weaknesses, and re-adjust accordingly. All of this helps promote long-term retention of knowledge. Perhaps the most important aspect of continuous assessment is that it targets different learning styles, promoting inclusiveness. Some students who find high-pressure exam environments challenging may excel in project-based assessments, where they can apply their skills and knowledge practically. Clearly, by diversifying assessment methods, educators can ensure a fairer and more comprehensive evaluation of students’ capabilities.

While formal examinations have their place in assessing certain skills, such as time management and recall of information, relying exclusively on exams fails to reflect the complex nature of learning. Therefore, to achieve a more accurate and holistic evaluation of student performance, a balanced approach that incorporates both formal examinations and continuous assessment methods is necessary. In conclusion, the assertion that formal examinations are the only effective way to test a student’s knowledge of a topic is incorrect. While exams have traditionally been considered the primary assessment method, they possess limitations that hinder their effectiveness. Continuous assessment methods, such as coursework and projects on the other hand, can offer a more realistic and comprehensive evaluation of a student’s capabilities, promoting critical thinking, creativity, and long-term retention of knowledge. Striking a balance between formal examinations and continuous assessment is crucial to fostering an inclusive and fair evaluation of student performance. 627 words