Examinations are the bug-bear of every student. They pose a terrible ordeal before the prospective examinees. They strike the heart of every one with awe. Christ prayed to God rightly that he ‘could be saved from examination, but He was put up to the test quite often. Students find themselves in a similar predicament. They pray to be saved from the curse of examinations. They descend like-ghosts over them. The ghosts of examinations devour them, drain their vitality and strength, and reduce them to mere skeletons. The ‘Examination-fever’ causes the students much physical and mental torture.

Our modern examination system is highly defective. One of its worst defects is the artificial and illogical aspect of the mode of testing the student’s knowledge. Our examinations are conducted mechanically. There is no emphasis on the creative impulse or individual initiative of the student. A parrot-like vibration of crammed up knowledge is to decide the issue whether a student is fit to adjust himself to the demands of his time or sot. The result is that our universities are producing graduates like pins, coming out of a pin-producing machine.

The mats purpose of education anywhere is to help students develop to the best of their ability and find a suitable and satisfying vocation. Examinations are primarily a means of judging how far that purpose has been served. They thus occupy a very important place in any system of education. In a country like India where a degree is valued more as a passport to a job than as evidence of academic attainments, they acquire added importance.

The most valid point made against the prevailing examination system is that however competent as examiner may be, it is hardly possible for him to judge more than a year work of a student in a few inmates. It is also wrong that the fate of a candidate should be decided in an all comprehensive examination extending over a nerve-racking week or fortnight. Examinations at present are at best a test of memory only, and there is a technique of making the grade in them. Those who have mastered that technique secure good marks even without any preparation or deep knowledge. After all the aim is just to secure paper qualifications which should enable one to stand in the queue for a job.


Our examinations have an entirely different orientation. They are mostly crude essay-type memory tests. There is in them a premium on parrot-like memorization at the cost of reason and intelligence. Even in the highest examinations it is subject-centered rote-learning which counts. Original thinking is at a discount. Ins­tead of being encouraged to think for himself, the student is often punished for it. A candidate taking an examination in English Literature is safe as long as he confines himself to quoting famous critics. But as soon as he ventures to express his own opinion, he is on dangerous ground. Chances are that the examiner who is him­self incapable of original thinking and has all his life taken pride in being able to quote a hundred critics from memory will treat the candidate’s attempt as a peace of sheer arrogance and penalize him for it.

The mischief does not end there. After the candidate has answered the question papers, he is at the mercy of the examiner. The examiner’s predilections can also cause distortions and play havoc with a student’s career. After all the examiner too is a human being and as fallible as anyone else. But the mistakes he makes are costly. They can cause acute mental agony to candidates on whom he delivers wrong judgment. How unreliable this method of testing a candidate’s ability can be, has been amply demonstrated time and again.

If examinations today have become unwieldy, our universities cannot escape a major share of the blame for this state of affairs. Whether for lack of will, or under extraneous pressures, they have not been able to regulate admissions. Most of them have become examining bodies’ rafter then seats of learning. Every year they collect huge amounts by way of examinations fees and then conduct indifferently organized examinations.

The system discourages industry. It blunts the sharpness of intellect. Many hold that it is as impediment to good education. It is nothing but a feat of memory. Those who cannot manage to put up a nice show of learning have to go down. Leacock rightly said once “Parrots would pass examinations of our time better than men. It is the one who has a sharp memory that mil make the highest score, though he may dear forget everything just the follow­ing morning”.


‘Though the examination system suffers from the glaring defects painted out above, if cannot be denied that there is no better alternative to it. Examinations are indispensable. In some form or the other, the system of examination must exist; otherwise the student will lack incentive to work. It keeps alive the spirit of rivalry and healthy competition in the heart of examinees. “It is a milestone on the road to knowledge”. So long as the system is not replaced by a better one, it must be there. What is needed is constructive criticism to build up a better system.

An examination should not be looked upon as a means of a university. It should primarily be a test to determine whether a candidate has earned the right to belong to its learned fellowship. There is an urgent need for university administrations to change their outlook in this respect. There can be no two opinions about the urgent need for reform in our examination system.

Seeing all this, educationists have been feeling the need for reforming the system of examinations to turn them into more realistic tests of students’ work and performance. In 1958, a team of America experts visited this country and through the National Council of Educational Research and Training and the State Bureau of Educational and Psychological Research initiated a scheme for training evaluation officers and preparing testing material. But all that made no impact on our examination system and all the defects it had continued to persist.

There are some basic points which need to be kept in view. Examination reform is inseparably linked with reform of the educational system as a whole. It can be effectively undertaken only after the curricula and the methods of teaching have been suitably improved to make them serve the real purpose of education. The Government has initiated the New Education Policy which provides for de-linking jobs from degrees and even eases the rigors of the examination system.


But this is’ not all that can be done. The universities have to adopt other measures to improve their technique of admission and examination. The student must be allowed to choose a vocation of his choice and examinations, though necessarily tests of knowledge and skill should not impede his onward march. Not simply the theoretical examination, but extra-curricular activities also should also count towards the total assessment of a student’s merit.