Friday 28th January 2022

Exams. 46/51. #LifeThisWeek. 92/2020.

Exams. 46/51. #LifeThisWeek. 92/2020.


Exams, examinations, tests, testing, assessments, checking, observing …..all are seemingly similar in purpose:

to assess a student’s learning. 

But are they? And do they?

This post is actually not about that…because:

  1. I have no time for the pages of writing I might need to do
  2. I have been part of an education setting for over 65 years: student, teacher, assessor and I am done!

Memories of Exams.

Let me count the memories as a student of high school and tertiary years!


  1. A fluttery tummy at the prospect
  2. Sleeplessness the night before
  3. Concerned I have not read  nor studied enough
  4. Getting to the venue safely and surely
  5. Trying NOT to engage in conversations with others also waiting to get into the venue for the exam
  6. Making sure I had the requisite pens, pencils, eraser, water bottle (unsure if we could take this in, but I know I would have had one)
  7. Actually making sure I WAS at the right rooms, buildings
  8. Looking around the room, convinced everyone there looked much better prepared than I was
  9. Watching the supervisor/invigelator (weird word) as they set out the rules for the session and noting the clock.
  10. Seeing the papers handed out, and one landing in front of me.


  1. Reading the paper as best I could and ensuring I could do at least one of the questions
  2. Taking my time to consider this without losing time
  3. Hating the multiple choices because TWO always seem right
  4. Preferring an essay style
  5. Keeping an eye on the clock
  6. Nervous glancing right and left at fellow examinees
  7. Hand hurting from writing so give it a stretch
  8. Encouraging myself to keep on going and F I N I S H
  9. Listening to time left warning
  10. Head down again and…..”Pens down”. Breathe again.


  1. Out into the warmth of the November day
  2. Checking with others, if I know anyone there, about how they thought it was
  3. Not engaging in any post-mortems for long
  4. Home but first lunch or a snack
  5. Approach my desk and move the papers relating to today’s exams away
  6. Getting out the next exam’s papers and notes
  7. But first….a chat with a friend, a drive to see someone
  8. Go to the beach to relax – it IS almost Summer
  9. Count the ways in which I will spend my days once the exams are over
  10. Return to the study area and ready to repeat processes again!


But what did I do as exams?

As told here in Telling My Story Chapter I was in the first cohort in New South Wales to be part of the Wyndham Scheme (6 years of high school replacing the 5 years) where the previous high school years of attendance were 3 and 5.

After Third Year (Year 9 now)  was the Intermediate Certificate and most students left then to pursue trade and other training type careers. Only those, including teachers-to-be, went on to Fifth Year ( Years 10 and 11 now). My husband was one of those.

My high school education started in 1962 and in 1965 I did the first School Certificate at the end of Year 10. It was formal, gruelling and quite stressful.

I then did the Higher School Certificate in 1967. Being guinea pigs was not all fun and we were put through some very heavy testing/examination times.

At Teacher’s College we did all the subjects we would need to teach in Primary Schools and I recall with great stress, the onerous task of 18 examinations to graduate as a qualified teacher. I actually failed Science but was allowed to graduate and re-sit the examination in my 3rd year. I still hated it but scraped through.

I was exam-free until I was encouraged to do my Bachelor of Education, and then after that my Master of Education. There were many assignments but only a few in-examination room exams as I was doing my degrees as a distance education student and I could sit an examination at a church hall in Parramatta.

I did a TAFE course in sign making and ticket writing back in the early 1970s and did an at-home test which I think my husband supervised as he was a teacher.

Then there is this sign…about exams in Australia.

It is said, that by the time you see the jacaranda trees bloom, if you have not started your study, it’s too late. Examinations are!


Let me add, as a teacher, mum and grandmother, it’s hard to do exams for many.

In fact there can be so many reasons why an external examination  is not helpful for many students who may have a number of factors affecting learning. That said, so far, not much has been touted as fully replacing them. It seems, even at the highest level of tertiary study and beyond for specialist doctors there are huge pressures around both oral and written examinations.

I am also aware there are many practical examinations too. For example, music, drama and dance.

So, how do you remember exams?


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  1. I too often wondered about the effectiveness of exams to evaluate a student’s learning. I used to count them very little overall towards a student’s yearly grade. I had so many other things I could grade – projects, lab reports, worksheets, etc.

    And my hubby’s handwriting is almost perfect. Mine looks like a dyslexic third-grader’s! 😀

    • It’s a big thing to still have end of year/school major exams in many areas of education. However, I admit a lot more of work during the lead up in the form of projects and activities as in drama which are performance-based happen now.

      Still, it is, for many the ‘old pen in hand, and now you have 3 hours to write, write, write.’

      I agree with you Laurie, we teachers could tell by so much more than an exam. Sigh.

      The handwriting thing. I can print beautifully but the handwriting is shocking! Leftie as well.


  2. I love the jacaranda advice – I have a year 12 kid again so I will use that come exam time next year! Lovely post, btw. I thought the topic might be dull but I see I just didn’t think about it properly! #Lifethisweek

    • Thanks Lydia, another Year 12 hey!

      The jacaranda advice was via Nikki Parkinson at Styling You some year ago because she did her study in a Qld Uni.

      I also recalled that the big jacaranda in the grounds of Sydney Uni had to be cut down because of disease and there were comments then about ‘how will we know it’s exam time!’ lol.


  3. Denyse,

    Wow, what exam memories! I did a lot of schooling and took a ton of exams. Both in school and after college in order to get licensed as a therapist. Looking back, I see that the hours of study and the exam process added a lot to my education overall. I know some people struggle with exams. However, I’d say they’ve been helpful for me.

    Thanks for sharing your exam memories. I like the wisdom about the trees and studying before they are in bloom. The earlier the better is great wisdom to follow!

    Denyse, thanks for a chance to share and see what other bloggers are up to.

    • You sound very disciplined in your study practices Jed and that pays dividends for sure.

      I did study but not 100% well and overwhelm could affect me as it did in the 18 exams time back in 1969. Cruel!

      Thank you for your kind words. I enjoy seeing you pop up here and look forward to reading your post later this week.


  4. I don’t have fond memories of exams Denyse and you summed the process up up very well in your dot points. I agree that much has been talked about changing systems but nothing has been done yet. As a former educator in the prison system, I have lots of experience in how exams played havoc with students who were already behind the eight ball!

    My HSC was the worst as I had returned from a tragic school excursion in Noumea a few months before where we lost some friends. The whole thing was traumatic but back in those days, unlike today, nothing was taken into account as to my state of mind and ability. In retrospect I was traumatised and my results reflected that.

    I have mentioned this accident in a post on my blog and talked about the exams but decided today to share a happy post about blogging friendships instead. This was part of a 1000 word challenge for a daily MOJO course I’m doing and the words just flowed!

    • I am saddened to read and remember how awful that was back then Deb, and of course, your life had been significantly affected from that moment on.

      I think there was, even then, ways of letting the markers/institute (whichever it was in your time, about 10 years after me I surmise) that there had been factors that could be affecting performance but then NO-ONE seemed to consider the mental and emotional sides of health nearly as much.

      I am hopeful this post optional prompt did not trigger you too much.

      I am glad you have a new writing thing you are finding fun and when words flow, that is a sign of creativity and enjoyment.


  5. Denyse, My first thought of exams is the stress that comes with them. I’m glad they’re behind me now. Thanks for sharing your exam memories. Have a great week! #lifethisweek

  6. So many exams in your life! I used to dread exams so much. I’d stay up late studying for at least a week before. And then get together in the library with friends before the exam to freak myself out about the things that they had studied and I hadn’t. Always a good way to go into an exam 😉

    When I got into university only a couple of my subjects had exams (the beauty of a journalism degree), and some of them were open-book. I didn’t really find having my books with me very useful during the exam, but it was always a comfort factor for me.

    • Ha! Ah well, I did go down a path of examinations in getting to where I wanted to be. Of course, you may not even know that the School Certificate in year 10 was a full on final exam. It’s where the ‘stuff’ hit the fan for me, because there was a surprise compulsory question on poetry in English. My worst part of English= poetry.

      I found if I got to hear the chatter of others and more it freaked me out with “I don’t remember that” thoughts so I learned to step away by the time I was at teacher’s college.

      I didn’t add in open book exams because I never did any but my husband did in his recent foray into tertiary ed.


  7. Hi Denyse – well this brought back memories of the “good old days” of high school and also doing my dental therapy exams. I never struggled particularly with exams – I was a good student and a diligent studier – and there wasn’t as much fuss made of them as there is now. Still, I’m glad they aren’t part of my life any more!

    • It’s lovely to hear you were studious Leanne.

      I was more social than studious but could do as well as I could in the end and that got me where I wanted to be: into teaching.

      Yes, none of us wants exams back in our lives do we? Medical and dental ones for our health are hard enough!


  8. Hi Denyse, I think exams were harder when we were at school and tertiary education to now. My sons could augment their exam marks with assignments and smaller tests throughout the semester. When I was at school we had to rely on passing one final exam at the end of the year. I was one of the last hospital trained Registered Nurses in Brisbane and the whole three years came down to one grueling exam – a lot of pressure to pass. I went on to do my bachelor’s degree and that was much easier I think.

    • You are right that the examinations we did and had back in the 1960s were just that Christina.

      None of the major exam milestones of half yearlies and yearlies (with the end of year certificates to get to Uni etc) were about performance outside the exam room.

      So much different now and for the good.

      Interesting to read of your experiences and the fact that the bachelors seemed easier. I congratulate you on getting your further education done whilst also working too.


  9. I love that advice about Australian exams and the jacarandas. Exams are not really my jam either to teach to or take myself – I much prefer ongoing assessment. Lucky I don’t have to take any exams anymore 🙂

  10. Hi Denyse I enjoyed reading your list about exams. When I think of exams I think of how nervous and stressed I used to get. I’m taking a little time out just now but will be back for #lifethisweek next week

  11. My memories of exams are mixed. I remember little of those during my school years. And at University when first an undergraduate I didn’t attend many lectures so always felt underprepared.

    I’m grateful now my study involves assignments rather than exams.

    • Thanks Deb for your honest comment!

      As a Uni tutor I find that you didn’t attend lectures unsurprising because so many did not, however, they did like Masters of Teaching tutes we had in Inclusive Education because there was a lot of sharing of stories about teaching that helped them as they were about to get interviews for new positions.

      Yes, on-going assessment via assignments gives a much better result…however, again, as the markers of such assignments we could get some ‘ahem’ interesting results at times thanks to the on-line checking system for plagiarism. Then of course, the Uni subject co-ordinator was alerted by me and then she would check for herself and in a few cases, students needed to appear for a review and some never came.


  12. I always scored well on tests and exams at school but I had zero confidence in my ability and they made me a nervous wreck. More than once I was physically sick with worry over them and in all honesty over schooling in general.

    • Oh that makes me sad (teacher-me) about not liking schooling much at all.

      I understand, Joanne, of course that it can be a very stressful time for kids (I mean teens and young adults) in school. I had some times in my life where it all felt too much. But, I admit, I did love working as a teacher of K-6 kids.


  13. I hate exams! I was okay when younger but as I got older and the pressure built, I remember vomiting some mornings or just getting anxious and blanking out during the exam (especially Yr 10, HSC and my final BA exams). I feel like exams are actually a measure of a person’s speed of writing and ability to recall information as opposed to actually learn. I did so much better in postgrad here where the emphasis was on essays and reports with a couple of exams that were open-book as opposed to rote learning. Exams need to be scrapped for more project-based or applied learning.

    • Wow, yes to all the reasons exams need to be phased out.

      That sums up exams for more than you I am pretty sure.

      I have shocking handwriting and it was always a concern for me that my writing could not be read.

      Yes, schools at least now can add much more of continuous assessment and more to those so-called ‘be all and end all’ exams.

      Thanks Sanch for your considered input and experience shared.