Online Encyclopedia

EXAMINATIONS

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V10, Page 49 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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EXAMINATIONS. The term " examination " (i.e. inspecting, weighing and testing; from Lat. examen, the tongue of a balance) is used in the following article to denote a systematic test of knowledge, and of either special or general capacity or fitness, carried out under the authority of some public body. 1. History.—The oldest known system of examinations in history is that used in China for the selection of officers for the public service (c. 1115 B.C.), and the periodic tests which they undergo after entry (c. 2200 B.c.). See CHINA; also W.A.P. Martin, The Lore of Cathay (19o1), p. 311 et seq.; T. L. Bullock, " Competitive Examinations in China " (Nineteenth Century, July 1894); and Etienne Zi, Pratique des examens litteraires en Chine (Shanghai, 1894). The abolition of this system was announced in 1906, and, as a partial substitute, it was decided to hold an annual examination in Peking of Chinese graduates educated abroad (Times, 22nd of October 1906). The majority of examinations in western countries are derived from the university examinations of the middle ages. The first universities of Europe consisted of corporations of teachers and of students analogous to the trade gilds and merchant gilds of the time. In the trade gilds there were apprentices, companions, and masters. No one was admitted to mastership until he had served his apprenticeship (q.v.), nor, as a rule, until he had shown that he could accomplish a piece of work to the satisfaction of the gild. The object of the universities was to teach; and to the three classes established by the gild correspond roughly the scholar, the bachelor or pupil-teacher (see Rashdall i. 209, note 2, and 22,1 note 5), and the master or doctor (two terms at first equivalent) who, having served his apprenticeship and passed a definite technical test, had received permission to teach. The early universities of Europe, being under the same religious authority and animated by the same philosophy, resembled each other very closely in curriculum and general organization and examinations, and by the authority of the emperor, or of the pope in most cases, the permission to teach granted by one university was valid in all (jus ubicunque docendi). The earliest university examinations of which a description is available are those in civil and in canon law held at Bologna at a period subsequent to 1219. The student was admitted without. examination as bachelor after from four to six years' study, and after from six to eight years' study became qualified as a candidate for the doctorate. He might obtain4- I the doctorate in both branches of law in ten years (Rashdall i. 221-222). The doctoral examination at Bologna in the 13th-14th centuries consisted of two parts—a private examination which was the real test, and a public one of a ceremonial character (conventus). The candidate first took an " oath that he had complied with all the statutable conditions, that he would give no more than the statutable fees or entertainments to the rector himself, the doctor or his fellow-students, and that he would obey the rector." He was then presented to the archdeacon of Bologna by one or. more doctors, who were required to have satisfied themselves of his fitness by private examination. On the morning of the examination, after attending mass, he was assigned by one of the doctors of the assembled college two passages (puncta) in the civil or canon law, which he retired to his house to study, possibly with the assistance of the presenting doctor. Later in the day he gave a lecture on, or exposition of, the prepared passages, and was examined on them by two of the doctors appointed by the college. Other doctors might then put supplementary questions on law arising out of the passages, or might suggest objections to his answers. The vote of the doctors present was taken by ballot, and the fate of the candidate was determined by the majority. The successful candidate, who received the title of licentiate, was, on payment of a heavy fee and other expenses, permitted to proceed to the conventus or final public examination. This consisted in the delivery of a speech and the defence of a thesis on some point of law, selected by the candidate, against opponents selected from among the students. The successful candidate received from the arch-deacon the formal " licence to teach " by the authority of the pope in the name of the Trinity, and was invested with the insignia of office. At Bologna, though not at Paris, the " per-mission to teach " soon became fictitious, only a small number of doctors being allowed to exercise the right of teaching in that university (Rashdall). In the faculty of arts of Paris, towards the end of the 13th century, the system was already more complicated than at Bologna. The baccalaureate, licentiateship, and mastership formed three distinct degrees. For admission to the baccalaureate a preliminary test or " Responsions " was first required, at which the candidate .had. to dispute in grammar or logic with a master. The examiners then inspected the certificates (schedulae) of residence and of having attended lectures in the prescribed subjects, and examined him in the contents of his books. The successful candidate was admitted to maintain a thesis against an opponent, a process called " determination " (see Rashdall i 443 et seq.), and as bachelor was then permitted to give "cursory" lectures. After five or six years from the date of beginning his. studies (matriculation) and being twenty years of age (these conditions varied at different, periods), a bachelor was permitted to present himself for the examination for the licentiate-ship, which was divided into two parts. The first part was conducted in private by the chancellor and four examiners (temptatores in cameris), and included an inquiry into the candidate's residence, attendance at lectures, and performance of exercises, as well as examination in prescribed books; those candidates adjudged worthy were admitted to the more important examination before the faculty, and the names of successful candidates were sent to the chancellor in batches of eight or more at a time, arranged in order of merit. (The order of merit at the examination for the licentiateship existed in Paris till quite recently.) Each successful candidate was then required to maintain a thesis chosen by himself (quodlibetica) in St Julian's church, and was finally submitted to a purely formal public examination (calcitic) at either the episcopal palace or the abbey of Ste Genevieve, before receiving from the chancellor, in the name of the Trinity, the licence to incept or begin to teach in the faculty of arts. After some six months more the licentiate took part " in a peculiarly solemn disputation known as his `Vespers,' " then gave his formal inaugural lecture or disputation before the faculty, and was received into the faculty as master. This last process was called " inception." In discussing the value of medieval examinations of the kind described, Paulsen (The German Universities (1906), p. 25) asserts that they were well adapted to increase a student's alertness, his power of comprehending new ideas, and his ability quickly and surely to assimilate them to his own, and that " they did more to enable [students] to grasp a subject than the mute and solitary reviewing and cramming of our modern examinations can possibly do." At their best they fulfilled precisely the technical purpose for which they were intended; they fully tested the capacity of the candidate to teach the subjects which he was required to teach in accordance with the methods which he was required to use. The limitations of the test were the limitations of the educational and philosophic ideals of the time, in which a dogmatic basis was presupposed to all knowledge and criticism was limited to the superstructure. At their worst, even with venal examiners (and additional fees were often offered as a bribe), Rashdall regards these examinations (at the end of the 13th century) as probably " less of a farce than the pass examinations of Oxford and Cambridge almost within the memory of persons now living." It is, however, to be pointed out that the standard in Paris and elsewhere at a later date became scandalously low in some cases. In some universities the sons of nobles were regularly excused certain examinations. At Cam-bridge in 1794 Fellow Commoners were examined with such precipitation to fulfil the formal requirements of the statutes that the ceremony was termed " huddling for a degree " (Jebb, Remarks upon the Present Mode of Education in the University of Cambridge, 4th ed., 1774, p. 32). The last privileges of this kind were abolished at Cambridge by a grace passed on the loth of March 1884. In the medieval examinations described above we find most of the elements of our present examinations: certificates of previous study and good conduct, preparation of set-books, questioning on subjects not specially prepared, division of examinations into various parts, classification in order of merit, payment of fees, the presentation of a dissertation, and the defence and publication of a thesis (a term of which the meaning has now become extended). The requirement to write answers to questions written or dictated, to satisfy a practical test (other than in teaching), and a clinical test in medicine, appear to be of later date.' The medieval candidate for the doctorate in medicine, although required to have attended practice before presenting himself, discussed as his thesis a purely theoretical question, often semi-theological in character, of which as an extreme example may be quoted " whether Adam had a navel." The competitive system was developed considerably at Louvain, and in the 15th century the candidates for the master-ship of arts were divided into three classes (rigorosi, honour-men; transibiles, pass-men; gratiosi, charity-passes), while a fourth, which was not published, contained the names of those who failed. In the 17th century the first class comprised the names of twelve, and the second, of twenty-four, candidates, who were divided on the report of their teachers into classes before the examination, and finally arranged in order of merit by the examiners (Vernulaeus, quoted by Sir W. Hamilton, Discussions, 1852; p. 647; Rashdall, loc. cit. ii. 262). At the Cambridge tripos (as described by Jebb in 1774, Remarks, &c., pp. 20-31) the first twenty-four candidates were also selected by a preliminary test; they were then divided further into " wranglers" (the disputants, par excellence) and Senior Optimes, the next twelve on the list being called the Junior Optimes. These names have in the mathematics tripos survived the procedure. (The name Tripos is derived from the three-legged stool on which " an old bachilour," selected for the purpose, sat during his disputation with the senior bachelor of the year, who was required to pro-pound two questions to him.) ' W. W. Rouse Ball in his History of the Study of Mathematics at Cambridge (1889), p. 193, states that he can find no record of any European examinations by means of written papers earlier than those introduced by R. Bentley at Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1702. EXAMINATIONS The subjects in which the medieval universities examined were (i.) those of the trivium and quadrivium in the faculty of arts; (ii.) theology; (iii.) medicine; and (iv.) civil and canon law. The number of subjects in which examinations are held has since grown immensely. We can only sketch in outline the transformations of certain typical university systems of examinations. At Oxford there is no record of a process of formal examination on books similar to that of Paris (Rashdall, ii. 442 et seq.), disputations being apparently the only test applied in its early history. Examinations were definitely introduced for the B.A. and M.A. degrees by Laud in 1636—1638 (Brodrick, History of Oxford, p. 114), but the standard prescribed was so much beyond the actual requirements of later times that it may be doubted if it was enforced. The studies fell in the 18th century into an " abject state," from which they were first raised by a statute passed in 1800 (Report of Oxford University Commission of 1850-1852, p. 6o et seq.), under which distinctions were first allotted to the ablest candidates for the bachelor's degree. Further changes were made in 1807 and 1825; and in 183o a distinction was made between honours examinations of a more difficult character, at which successful candidates were divided into four classes, and pass examinations of an easier character. By the statutes of 1849 and 1858 an intermediate " Moderations " examination was instituted between the preliminary examination called " Responsions " and the final examination. Since 185o, although fresh subjects of examination have been introduced, no considerable change of system has been made. The bachelor's degree at Oxford tended from an early period to be postponed to an advanced stage of studies, while the requirements for the master's degree diminished until, in 1807, the examination for the M.A. was abolished. It is now awarded to bachelors of three years' standing on payment of a fee. Cambridge in early times followed the example of Oxford, and here also the bachelor's degree became more and more important (Bass Mullinger, History of the University of Cambridge from 1535 . . . , p. 414), and the M.A. has been finally reduced to a mere formality, awarded on terms similar to those of the sister university. The standard of examinations was raised in Cam-bridge at an earlier date than at Oxford, and in the 18th century the tripos " established the reputation of Cambridge as a School of Mathematical Science." The school, however, produced few, if any, great mathematicians between Newton and George Green. It was only between 183o and 1840 that the standard of the tripos became a high one. At Cambridge there is no intermediate examination between the " Previous Examination " (commonly called " Little-go "), which corresponds to Oxford " Responsions " or " Smalls " and the triposes and examinations for the " Poll " degree, which correspond to the Oxford final honours and pass examinations respectively. But most of the triposes have been divided into two parts, of which the second is not obligatory in order to obtain a degree. The" senior wrangler" was the first candidate in order of merit in the first part of the mathematical tripos. The abolition of order of merit at this examination was decided on in 1906, and names of candidates appeared in this order for the last time in 1909. - At the Scottish universities the B.A. degree has become extinct, and the M.A., awarded on the results of examination, is the first degree in the faculty of arts. The incorporation of the university of London in 1836 marks an era in the history of examinations; the teaching and examining functions of a university were dissociated for the first time. Until 1858 the London examinations were open only to students in affiliated colleges, and the teachers had no share in the appointment of the examiners or indetermining the curricula for examinations; in 1858 the examinations were thrown open to all corners, and no requirements were insisted on with regard to courses of study except for degrees in the faculty of medicine. The sole function of the university was to examine, and its examinations for matriculation and for degrees in arts and science were carried on by means of written papers not only in London but in many centres in the United Kingdom and the colonies. From the first the degrees were (unlike-those of Oxford and Cambridge until 1871) open to all male persons without religious distinctions; and in 1878 they were opened to women. (Tripos examinations were thrown open to women at Cambridge by the grace of 24th Feb. 1881, and at Oxford women were admitted to examinations for honours by statute of 29th April 1884. Proposals to admit women to university degrees were rejected by Oxford and Cambridge in 1896 and 1897 respectively.) The standard of difficulty set by the university of London was a high one, very much higher for its pass degrees than the corresponding standards at Oxford and Cambridge, while the standard for honours was equally high. In medicine the examinations were made both wider in range and more searching than those of any other examining body. But, for reasons dealt with below, great discontent was roused by the new system. In 188o the Victoria University, Manchester, was established, in which teaching and examining were again united; and in the universities since established, with the exception of the Royal University of Ireland (which was created in 188o as an examining body on the model of London, but which was dissolved under the Irish Universities Act 1908, and replaced by the National University of Ireland and the Queen's University of Belfast), the precedent of Victoria has been followed. By an act passed in 1898, of which the provisions came into force in 1900, the university of London was reconstituted as a teaching university, although provision was made for the continuance of the system of examinations by " external examiners " for " external students," together with " internal examinations " for " internal students," in which the teachers and the external examiners of the university are associated. The examinations in music and the final examinations in law and medicine are carried on [1910) both for " internal " and " external " students by " external " examiners only, who are, however, appointed on the recommendation of boards of studies consisting mainly of London teachers. At the university of Dublin, examinations have been maintained both for the B.A. and M.A. degrees, and students may be admitted to the examinations in subjects other than divinity, law, medicine, and engineering without attendance at university courses. The examinations of the newer universities, the Victoria University of Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield and Wales, are open only to students at these universities, and are conducted by the teachers in association with one or more external examiners for each subject. In some universities, e.g. Manchester, the M.A. degree is given after examination to students who have taken a pass, and without examination to those who have taken an honours degree. The universities which have departed furthest from the medieval system of examinations, at any rate in appearance, are those of Germany. The baccalaureate has disappeared, but students cannot be matriculated without having passed the Abiturianten-examen (see below), probably the most severe of all entrance examinations (foreign students may be exempted under certain conditions). The student desiring to proceed to the doctorate is free from examinations thereafter until he presents his thesis for the doctor's degree,' when, if it is accepted, he is submitted to a public oral examination not only in his principal subject (Hauptfach), but also as a rule in two or more collateral subjects (Nebenfacher). The doctor's degree does not give the right to teach in a faculty (venia legendi). To acquire this a doctor must present a further thesis (Habilitationsschrift), and must deliver two lectures, one before the faculty, followed by a discussion (colloquium), the other in public; but these lectures " seem to be merely secondary and are tending to become so more and more "; " scientific productiveness is so sharply emphasized among the conditions for admission that it over-shadows all the rest " (Paulsen, loc. cit. p. 165). ' It should be mentioned that the professors of chemistry of a number of German, Austrian and Swiss universities, have, by agreement. instituted an intermediate examination in that subject which students are required to pass before beginning work on the doctoral thesis. The examination of the students is conducted by the teachers concerned. In France the examination for the baccalaureate, though conducted in part by university examiners, has become a school-leaving examination (see below). The licentiateship has been preserved in the faculties of arts, science and laws, and is in point of difficulty about equal to the pass degree examinations of the university of London, though differing in the nature of the tests. In the faculty of sciences, the three subjects of examination selected may, under a recent regulation, be taken separately. Until a few years ago the successful candidates at the licentiate-ship were arranged in order of merit. For the doctorate in the faculty of letters two theses must be submitted, of which the subject and plan must be approved by the faculty (until recently one of them was required to be written in Latin). Permission to print the theses is given by the rector or vice-rector after report from one or more professors, and they are then discussed publicly by the faculty and the candidate (soutenance de these). In this public discussion the " disputation " of the middle ages survives in its least changed form. The literary theses required by French universities are, as a rule, volumes of several hundred pages, and more important in character even than the German Habilitationsschrift. The possession of the doctorate is a sine qua non for eligibility to a university chair, and to a lectureship in the university of Paris. In the faculty of sciences a candidate for the doctorate may submit two theses, or else submit one thesis and undergo an oral examination. For the doctorate in law, a thesis and two oral examinations are required. In the faculty of medicine there is no licentiateship, but for the doctorate six examinations must be passed and a thesis submitted. There is also a special doctorate, the " doctoral d' Universite," awarded on a thesis and an oral examination; and there are diplomas (Diplo"mes d'Etudes superieures) awarded on dissertas tions and examinations on subjects in philosophy, history and geography, classics or modern languages, selected mainly by the candidate and approved by the faculty. 2. Professional Examinations. (a) Teaching.—University examinations for degrees having ceased to be used as technical tests of teaching capacity, new examinations have been devised for this purpose. The test for German university teachers has been described above. For secondary teachers, W. von Humboldt instituted a special examination in 18io (Paulsen, Gesch. des gelehrlen Unterrichts, ii. pp. 283 and 393), and an examination for primary teachers was instituted in Prussia in 1794. In France there is a competitive examination far secondary teachers, the agregation, originally established in 1766. Agrees have a right to state employment and they alone can occupy the highest teaching post (chaire de professeur) in a state secondary school, other posts being open to licentiates. There are also examinations for primary teachers. The tests for teachers are different for the two sexes. In England there is no obligatory test for secondary teachers. The universities and the College of Preceptors conduct examinations for teaching diplomas. The Board of Education holds special examinations (Preliminary Certificate examination and Certificate examination, &c.) for primary teachers. (b) Medicine.—See MEDICAL EDUCATION. (c) Other Professions.—A system of professional examinations carried on by professional bodies, in some cases with legal sanction, was developed in England during the 19th century. Those in the following subjects are the most important: Accountancy (Institute of Chartered Accountants and Society of Accountants and Auditors), actuarial work (Institute of Actuaries), music (Royal Academy of Music, Royal College of Music, Trinity College of Music, Royal College of Organists, and the Incorporated Society of Musicians), pharmacy (Pharmaceutical Society), plumbing (the Plumbers' Company), surveying (Surveyors' Institution), veterinary medicine (Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons), technical subjects, e.g. cotton-spinning, dyeing, motor-manufacture (City & Guilds of London Institute), architecture (Royal Institute of British Architects), commercial subjects, shorthand (the Society of Arts and London Chamber of Commerce), engineering (Institutions of Civil Engineers, of Mechanical Engineers, and of Electrical Engineers). 3. School-leaving Examinations.—The faculty of arts in medieval , universities covered ,secondary as well: as higher education in the subjects concerned. The division in arts subjects between secondary and university education has been drawn at different levels in different countries. Thus the first two years of the arts curriculum in English and American universities correspond, roughly speaking, to the last two years spent in a secondary school of Germany or' France, and the continental " school-leaving examinations" correspond to the intermediate examinations of the newer English universities and to the pass examinations for the degree at Oxford and Cambridge (Mark Pattison, Suggestions on Academical Organization, 1868, p. 238, and Matthew Arnold, Higher Schools and Universities in Germany, 1892, p. 2o9). A tabular summary is given (see Tables I., II., III., IV.) of the requirements of the secondary school-leaving examinations of France, Prussia (for the nine-year secondary schools) and Scotland, and of the university of London. There are in England a number of school examinations which, under prescribed conditions, also serve as school-leaving examinations, and give entrance to certain universities, especially the Oxford and Cambridge local examinations (both established in 1858),and the examinations of the Oxford and Cambridge "Joint Board." A movement to reduce the number of entrance examinations and to secure uniformity in their standard was set on foot in 1901. In that year the General Medical Council communicated to the Board of Education a memorial on the subject from the Headmasters' Conference. The memorial was further communicated to various professional bodies concerned. Conferences were held by the consultative committee of the Board of Education in 1903, with representatives of the universities, the Head-masters' Conference, the Association of Head-Masters, the Association of Head-Mistresses, the College of Preceptors, the Private Schools' Association, and with representatives of professional bodies. The committee were of opinion that a central board, consisting of representatives of the Board of Education and the different examining bodies, should be established, to co-ordinate and control the standards of :the examinations, and to secure interchangeability of certificates, &c., as soon as a sufficient number of such bodies signified their willingness to be represented on the board. They recommended that the examination should be conducted by external and internal examiners, representing in each case the examining body and the school staff respectively, and that reports on the school work of candidates should be available for reference by the examiners (circular of the Board of Education of 12th of July 1904). The " accrediting " system in the United States was started by the university of Michigan in 1871. A school desiring to be accredited is submitted to inspection without previous notice. If the inspection is satisfactory, the school is accredited by a university for from one to three years, and upon the favourable report of its principal any of its students are admitted to the university by which it has been accredited without any entrance examination. In practice it is found that many students whom their teachers refuse to certify are able to pass the university entrance examination. The statistics of nine years show that the standard of the certified students is higher than that of non-certified students. Two hundred and fifty schools are accredited by the university of Michigan. In 1904 it was stated that the system was gaining favour in the east,' and that it had been adopted more or less by all the eastern colleges and universities with the exception of Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Columbia. 4. Methods of Examination.—Examinations may test (i.) knowledge, or, more exactly, the power of restating facts and arguments of a kind that may be learnt by rote; (ii.) the power ' See E. E. Brown in Monographs on Education in the United States (ed. by N. M. Butler, 1900, i. 164), and T. Gregory Foster and H. R. Reichel, Report of Mosely Educational Commission (1904), pp. 117-119 and 288-289.of doing something, e.g. of making a precis of a written document, of writing a letter or a report on a particular subject with a particular object in view, of translating from or into a foreign language, of solving a mathematical problem, of criticizing a passage from a literary work, of writing an essay on an historical or literary subject with the aid of books in a library, of diagnosing the malady of a patient, of analysing a chemical mixture or compound; and (the highest form under the rubric) of making an original contribution to learning or science as the result of personal investigation or experiment. Examinations are carried out at present by means of (1) written papers; (2) oral examinations; (3) practical, including in medicine clinical, tests; (4) theses; or a combination of these. In written examinations the candidates are, as a rule, supplied with a number of printed questions, of which they must answer all, or a certain proportion, within a given time, Written. varying, as a rule, from 1 z to 3 hours, the latter being the duration most generally adopted for higher examinations in England. Whereas in France and Germany the questions are generally few in number and require long answers, showing constructive skill and mastery of the mother-tongue on the part of the candidates, such "essay-papers" are comparatively rare in England. In many subjects, the written examinations test memory rather than capacity. It has been suggested that sets of questions to be answered in writing should as a rule be divided into two parts (i.) a number of questions requiring short answers and intended to test the range of the candidate's knowledge; (ii.) questions requiring long answers, intended to test its depth, and the candidate's powers of co-ordination and reflection. A necessary condition for the application of the second kind of test is that time should be given for reflection and for rewriting, say one-third or one-quarter of the whole time allowed. A further distinction is important, especially in such subjects as mathematics or foreign languages, in which it is legitimate to ask what precise power on the part of a candidate the passing of an examination shall signify. Owing to a prevailing confusion between tests of memory and tests of capacity, the allowance for chance fairly applied to the former is apt to be unduly extended to the latter. In applying tests of memory, it may be legitimate to allow a candidate to pass who answers correctly from 30 to 50% of the questions; such an allowance if applied to a test of capacity, such as the performance of a sum in addi tion, the solution of triangles by means of trigonometrical tables, or the translation of an easy passage from a foreign language, appears to be irrational. A candidate who obtains only 5o% of the marks in performing such operations cannot be regarded as being able to perform them; and, if the examination is to be treated as a test of his capacity to perform them, he should be rejected unless he obtains full marks, less a certain allowance (say to, or at most 20%) in view of the more or less artificial conditions inherent in all examinations. The oral examination is better suited than the written to discover the range of a candidate's knowledge; it also serves as a test of his powers of expression in his mother- oral. tongue, or in a foreign language, and may be used (as in the examination for entrance to the Osborne Naval College) to test the important qualities (hardly tested in any other examinations at present), readiness of wit, common-sense and nerve. It may be objected that candidates are heavily handicapped by nervousness in oral examinations, but this objection does not afford sufficient ground for rejecting the test, provided that it is supplemented by others. Oral tests are used almost invariably in medical examinations; and there is a growing tendency to make them compulsory in dealing with modern languages. Oral examinations are much more used abroad than in England, where the pupils during their school years receive but little exercise in the art of consecutive speaking. The laboratory examination may be used in subjects like physics, chemistry, geology, zoology, botany, anatomy, physiology, to test powers of manipulation and knowledge of experimental methods. In some cases (e.g. in certain honours I. II. III. IV. V. VI. VII. Name of Minimum Age Length of Course Subjects. with Examiners. Nature of Examination and Examination. for Entry. of Study. . Teaching. General Remarks. Abilurienten Age only limited 9 years. In Gymnasium. The object of the ex- The Examining Board The written examination Examen by condition of German csy, amination is defined consists of a govern- extends over four or five (established in courseofschool Candidates who Mathematics. as being a test of meat inspector (der days. Only one paper is have not for at- x788). course. The Translation into Latin. whether the candi- Knnigliche Kmnrnis- given each day, which usual age is tended the 9 Translation from Greek into date has fulfilled the sae) acting as chair- 3 t0 51 hours are allowed years' school aims laid down in the man, the headmaster (Si hours for the German r7 .8. course may be w German. curricula, &c., pre- of the school, and the essay). For essays in admitted to the 'Latin. scribed for a Gym- teachers of the high- foreign languages diction- examinationon Greek. nasium, Real-gym- est classes in the aries may be used. s p e c i a 1 a p- English or French. nasium or Ober-real- school. The inspector plication. Religion. schnle, as the case may nominate a History. may be, and the sub- deputy, who is, as a Mathematics. jects of examination rule, the headmaster In Real-Gymnasium. are those prescribed of the school. in the curricula for Each teacher con- . d essay. the kind of school cerned selects for the Mathematics. concerned. written examination Translation from Latin. The report on the three alternative sub- 'Pranslation from German into, school work of each jests in his branch , or essay in, English or French. candidate in his from which, after Physics. various subjects is receiving a report Latin. laid before the Exam- thereon from the English. ining Board before headmaster, the in- French. the beginning of the Spector makes a final Physics or Chemistry. examination. choice. 0 Religion. The papers are History. marked by the Mathematics. teachers concerned, In Ober-Realschule. and circulated to the whole Board of Ex- German essay. aminers, who then Mathematics. decide whether in- An exercise in French and in 7-1 English (• an essay in one Ian- shall be e (i.) candidates guage and a translation from shall rejected, ed, (ii.) with other into German). oraxe lionf from the Physics or Chemistry. eaminaatition, oral l examination, xor o of English. (iii.) submitted to the French. oral examination. Physics. • `~ Chemistry. O Religion. History. Mathematics. L II. III. IV. V. VI. VII. Name of Minimum Age Length of Course Subjects Co-ordination with Examiners. Nature of Examination and Examination. for l.ntry. of Study. . Teaching. General Remarks. Baccalaurcal de Part I., 16, or, 'There is no re- Part I. is divided into four Branches, The syllabus of the ex- The Board of Exam- The written portion of Pease ignemenl with special quirement of viz.:— amination is that pre- iners (or "jury") Part I. extends over secondaire. permission, 15. attendance. (i) Latin-Greek. scribed for the higher consists of (i.) Uni- from 9 to ro hours in This examina- Part II. may not Part I. of the (a) Latin-modern languages, classes in the Gov- versify examiners all (not on a single day), lion has been be takenic examination (3) Latin-science. ernment secondary being members of a in periods of 3 or 4 hours corresponds ea- schools, faculty of letters or each; the written onion carried on a n academic xctly to the (4) Science-modern languages. The candidate may faculty of sciences; p different after pa, Branch is of Part II. extends over under In each the examination forms since year subjects taken divided into two parts, viz. written submit his lmeet (ii.) s e c o n d a r y from 6 to 9 hours. The ing Part I. in the "second scnlaire, or school teachers, active or oral examination for each 18o8. The re!- cycle"ofsecon- and oral. The nature of the ex- record, which will be retired, selected by part lasts i hour on the ulati sum- daryeducation, amination may be indicated by taken into account. the minister of public average, and is public. marred here and Part II, to the following requirements in instruction. T h e mariced date from iIh the rlasse de Branch (0:— Board consists of when the plcilosophie d from four to six ex- ba real and classe de (i.) French composition. aminers, of whom, described d re- m h a- (ii.) Translation from Latin. when the number is a L m placed t h e (iii.) Translation from Greek. baccalaurraf- ligiaes. even, half are chosen es-Icllres, bar- See also under V. (i.) Explanation of a Greek from either category. cala areal - es- text. '.. sciences, and (ii.) Explanation of a Latin baccalaurfaf text. de l'enseiene- (iii.) Explanation of a French meat moderne. O Branches, (i) quirements (z) text. The (iv.) Test in a modern foreign be language. d (v.) Interrogation on ancient .10 J history. 5 (vi.) Interrogation on modern G history. (vii.) Interrogation on geo graphy. (viii.) Interrogation on mathe- matics. (ix.) Interrogation on physics. Part II. is divided into two viz.: Philosophy. Mathematics. nature of the examination may indicated by the following re- in Branch (r) : ( (i.) An essay in French on a philosophical subject. L (ii.) An examination in physical and natural science. (i.) interrogation on philosophy and philosophical writers. (ii.) Interrogation on contem- porary history. (iii.) Interrogation on physical science. (iv.) Interrogation on natural science. I. II. III. IV. V. VI. VII. Name of Minimum Age Length of Course Subjects. Co-ordination with Examiners. Nature of Examination and Examination. for Entry. of Study. Teaching. General Remarks. Scottish school- 17 on rat of Janu- 4 years. Candidates must pass in four subjects Schools are inspected. The examiners are ap- The examination consists leaving exam- ary following on the higher grade standard, or and the course of pointed by the Scot- of a written examination inatio¢ (estab- the year in in three subjects on the higher instruction must be tish Education De- and an oral examination, lished 1888). which the can- grade standard and two on the approved by the Scot- partment. on which stress is laid. (See pamphlet didate passes lower. A pass in drawing is fish Education De- . The length of the ex- on the "Leav- the last of the accepted in lieu of one of the two partment, but the amination varies with the ing Certificate written exam- lower grade passes. A pass in examinations are con- subjects selected. The Examination " inations. Gaelic is reckoned as a pass on the ducted by external periods of examination issued by the lower grade. All candidates must examinerswith whom vary from r to xi hours. Scottish Edu- have passed in higher English and teachers are not If the candidate selects cation Depart- in either higher or lower grade associated. on the higher grade, ment, 1908.) mathematics. The remaining sub- English, Latin, mathe- jects may be either science with matics, and French, the one or more languages (Latin, examination extends over Greek, French, German, Spanish, r9i hours. or Italian), or languages only. But where two or more languages other than English are taken, the candi- date's group must include either higher or lower grade Latin. A pass in Spanish, Italian, or science (in which subjects there is only one examination) is reckoned as a pass on the higher grade standard. I. II. Ill. IV. V. VI. VII. Name of Minimum Age Length of Course Subjects. Co-ordination with Examiners. Nature of Examination and Examination. For Entry. of Study. Teaching. General Remarks. School examina- The minimum The curriculum Pupils must satisfy the examiners Schools under approved The examiners are The examination extends tion,matricula- age of entry of each school in not less than five subjects, as inspection,andcourse ordinarily those ap- over at least 18 hours, tion standard is 15, but if the is considered follows:— of instruction ap- pointed by the and includes an oral ex- (established in candidate is ,on its own ~1) English. proved by the Uni- University for the amination , in modern 1902). under ie he merits. x) Elementary mathematics. versify. ordinary matricula- languages. Note—A higher must remain at 3) Latin, or elementary mechanics, The papers are tion examination. school -leaving school until he or elementary physics — heat, ordinarily set on the certificate is is rt years of light and sound, or elementary y awarded to age in order to chemistry, or elementary botany, matriculation sylla- pupils who(i.) be qualified for or general elementary science. bus, but papers have pursued theschool-leav- (4) and (5) Two of the following specia 1pers may an approved ing certificate, subjects, neither of which has y set more course of study and cannot be already been taken under section closely in accordance fora period of registered as the (3). ILatin be not taken, one with the school for a at a student of the of the other subjects selected curriculum provided s c h o o l o r University an- must be another language, either that the syllabus pro- schools under r i I h e has ancient or modern, from the posed is approved by inspection ap reached that list, and languages other than the University as at proved by the 8ge• those included in the list may least equivalent to University; be taken if approved by the that for which it is and (ii.) being University, provided that the substituted. matriculated language is included id the students, have regular curriculum : — Latin, passed the Greek, French, German, ancient higher school history, modern history, history examination" and geography, physical and in at least three general geography, logic, geo- subjects at one metrical and mechanical draw- and the same ing, mathematics (more ad- examination. vanced), elementary mechanics, elementary chemistry, elemen- tary physics- - heat, light and sound elementary physics electricity and magnetism, ele- mentary biology—botany, ele- mentary biology—zoology, gen- eral elementary science (chem- istry and physics). examinations) the examination may be prolonged over one or more days, and may test higher powers of investigation. But Prad>caL such powers can only be fully tested by the perform- ance of original work, under conditions difficult to fulfil in the examination room or laboratory. At the French examinations for the prix de Rome the candidates are required to execute a painting in a given number of days, under strict supervision (en loge). In medicine the clinical examination of a patient is a test carried out under conditions more nearly approaching those of actual work than any other; and distinction in medical examinations is probably more often followed by distinction in after life than is the case in other examinations. For the doctor's degree (where this is not an honorary distinction) a thesis or dissertation is generally, though not in-Thesis variably, variably, required in England. Of recent years the thesis has been introduced into lower examinations; it is required for the master's degree at London in the case of internal students, in subjects other than mathematics (1910);both at Oxford and London, the B.Sc. degree, and at Cambridge the B.A. degree, may be given for research, although the number of students proceeding to a degree in this way is at present relatively small. In certain of the honours B.A. and B.Sc. examinations at Manchester and Liverpool, candidates may take the written portion of the examination at the end of the second year's course of study and submit a dissertation at the end of the third year. Theses are generally examined by two or more specialists. 5. Competitive Examinations.—The arrangement of students in order of merit led naturally to the use of examinations not only as a qualifying but also as a selective test, and to the offering of money prizes (including exhibitions, scholarships and fellowships) on the results. In 1854 selection by examination as a method of appointment to posts in the English public service was first substituted for the patronage system, which had caused grave dissatisfaction (see Macaulay's speech on the subject, The Times of the 25th of June 1853). The first public competitive examination for the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, took place in 1855, and in 1870 the principle of open competition for the civil service was adopted as a general rule. (For further details see CIVIL SERVICE.) In the Wurttemberg civil service candidates are admitted to a year's probation after passing a theoretical examination, at the conclusion of which they must pass an examination of a more practical character (A. Herbert, Sacrifice of Education ..., 1889, p. III). In the award of scholarships, &c., it should be definitely decided whether the scholarship is to be awarded (I) for attainment, in which case the examination-test pure and simple may suffice, or (2) for promise, in which case personal information and a curriculum vitae are necessary. To take a simple instance: a candidate partly educated in Germany may obtain more marks in German at a scholarship examination than another who is more gifted, but whose opportunities have been less; the question at once arises, are the examiners to take the circumstances of the candidate into account or not ? It is understood that at the colleges of the older universities such circumstances are considered. It must again be decided whether the financial circumstances of candidates are to be taken into account; are scholar-ships intended as prizes, or as a means of enabling poor students to obtain a university education ? In some cases wealthy students have been known to return the emoluments of scholar-ships. It many universities of the United States there is a definite understanding that emoluments shall only be accepted by those needing them. It would not be difficult to ask candidates to make a confidential declaration on this subject on entrance and to establish in Great Britain a tradition similar to that of the United States, and steps in this direction have been taken both at Oxford and Cambridge (Lord Curzon of Kedleston, University Reform, p. 86). A special allowance may be made for age. In certain scholar-ship examinations held formerly by the London County Council a percentage was added to the marks of each candidate proportionate to the number of months by which his age fell short of the maximum age for entry. The whole subject of entrance scholarships at English schools and universities, and especially their tendency to produce premature specialization, has recently been much discussed. 6. The Organization and Conduct of Examinations.—The organization and conduct of examinations, in such a way that each candidate shall be treated in precisely the same way as every other candidate, is a complex matter, especially where several thousand candidates are concerned. The greatest precautions must be taken to ensure the secrecy of the examination papers before the examination, and the effective isolation of individual candidates during the examination. The super-vision should be adequate to remove all temptation to copying. The hygienic conditions should be such as to reduce the strain to a minimum. The question of the mental fatigue produced by examinations has been studied by certain German observers, but has not yet been fully investigated. 7. Marking, Classification and Errors of Detail.—In applying a single test in a qualifying examination it would be sufficient to mark candidates as passing or failing. But examinations consist as a rule of a number of tests, each one of which is complex; and a mark is recorded in respect of each test or portion of a test in order to enable the examining body to estimate the performance, considered as a whole, of the candidate. At Oxford the marks are not numerical, but the papers are judged as of this or that supposed " class," and various degrees of merit are indicated by the symbols a, 0, y, 6, to which the signs + or — may be prefixed, according as they are above or below a certain standard within each class. At Cambridge, numerical marks are used. The advantage of numerical marks is that they are more easily manipulated than symbols; the disadvantage, that they produce the false impression that merit can be estimated with mathematical accuracy. Professor F. Y. Edgeworth, in two papers on " The Statistics of Examinations " and the " Element of Chance in Competitive Examinations " (Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, 1888 and 1890), has dealt withthe subject, although on somewhat limited lines. His investigations show clearly that with candidates near the border-line of failure, which must necessarily be fixed at a given point (subject to certain allowances, where more than one subject is considered), the element of chance necessarily enters largely into the question of pass and failure. The fact may be stated in this way:—the general efficiency of the test being granted, it is true to say that the large majority of those who pass an examination will be superior in efficiency to those who fail; but a few of those who fail may be superior to a few of those who pass. These errors are not peculiar to the examination system, they are inherent in all human judgments. It is necessary to allow for them in considering the failure of an individual candidate as an index of inefficiency. The element of chance, which prevails in the region on either side of the border between pass and failure, obviously prevails equally on either side of the border between " classes," where candidates are classified; it has been suggested by Dr Schuster that numerical order should accompany classification so as to avoid the creation of an artificial gap between the last candidate in one class and the highest in the next. Edgeworth's objection to such an argument is that the number of uncertainties is far less when candidates are classed than when they are placed in ostensible order of merit. The difficulties of comparison of marks are further complicated when students' take different subjects and it is necessary to compare their merit by means of marks allotted by different examiners and added together. In a pass examination the question has to be considered how far, if at all, excellence in one subject shall compensate for deficiency in another, a question which is indeterminate until the precise object of the whole examination is formulated. In the competitive examination for the Indian civil service, places are allotted on the aggregate of marks obtained in a number of subjects selected by the candidate from a list of thirty-two. The successful candidates are compared a year later on the results of another examination in which there is again a choice, though a much more limited one. The order of merit in the two examinations is, as a rule, very different. Two further points may be noted. An examiner may have underestimated the time required to answer the questions which he has set; this will be obvious if .with a large number of candidates (say 300 or 400) none approaches the maximum mark. In this case the maximum should be reduced. Again, it is generally recognized to be undesirable to give marks for a smattering. In order to avoid this various devices are adopted. The simplest is to award a proportion of marks (say to to 15, or even 20%) for " general impression." In some examinations, unless say 20% or more marks are obtained for a particular subject, no credit is given for the paper in that subject. Latham (The Action of Examinations, 1877, p. 490) :describes other numerical adjustments used to meet this difficulty, especially that used in English civil service examinations. The numerical results of the civil service examinations are reduced so as to conform to a certain symmetrical "frequency-curve," of which the abscissae represent percentages of marks between definite limits and the ordinates the number of candidates obtaining marks between those limits. C. E. Fawsitt (The Education of the Examiner, Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow, 1905) shows that frequency-curves deduced from actual investigation of class-marks are not symmetrical, but have two maxima corresponding to the performance of " non-workers " and of workers." In pass examinations of a well-known character there is a maximum just beyond the pass mark, this being the point of efficiency at which many students aim. 8. The Object and Efficiency of Examinations, and their Indirect Effects.—In order to estimate the efficiency of an examination as a test, the precise question should be asked in each case—what is it intended to test? Much of the evil attributed to, and resulting from, examinations is due to the fact that this question has not been definitely put, and that a test legitimate for certain purposes has been used for others to which it is unsuited. Examinations are suited in the first instance for the purpose for which they were originally designed in medieval universities—the test of technical and professional capacity; it has never been proposed to abolish qualifying examinations for doctors, pharmaceutical chemists, &c.; the tests applied are (or should be) direct tests of capacity carried out under conditions as nearly as possible like those of actual practice. If a student can auscultate correctly, or make up a prescription, at an examination, he will in all probability be able to do so in other circumstances. Examinations as tests of the knowledge of isolated facts are necessarily of relatively small value, because the memory of such facts is transient; and memorization of a large number of facts for examination purposes is generally admitted to be specially transient; the " knowledge-test," considered apart from a test of capacity, is in fact not a test of permanent knowledge, but of the power of retaining facts for a length of time which it is impossible to estimate and which with some candidates extends over a few weeks only. When used as tests of " general culture," examinations, in the view of Paulsen, based on a study of German education, not only *fail in their purpose, but tend to destroy the faculties which it is desired to develop (Geschichte des gelehrten Unterrichts, ii. 684 et seq.); to prepare ready answers to the numberless questions which an examiner may ask on a large variety of subjects is to paralyse the natural and free activity of the mind (cf. A. C. Benson on the results of English secondary classical education, From a College Window, 3rd ed., 1906, pp. 154-177). If pushed to its logical conclusion the view of Paulsen must, it is submitted, lead to the complete abandonment at examinations of tests of " knowledge as distinguished from direct tests of capacity. Thus isolated questions on details of grammar would disappear from papers on the mother-tongue and on foreign languages, in which the test would consist mainly or entirely of composition and translation. Erudition would be tested by the power of writing, at leisure, a dissertation on some subject selected by the examiners or the candidate or, in the case of a teacher, by the delivery of a lecture on the subject. At the French agregation candidates are given twenty-four hours for the preparation of a lecture of this kind. Such examinations would test the " skill in the manipulation of facts which is the true sign of a trained intelligence " (cf. K. Pearson, " The Function of Science in the Modern State," Ency. Brit. loth ed. xxxii. Prefatory essay). They might possibly be supplemented by easy oral examinations to test both range of knowledge and readiness of .mind. But in the case of a pupil who had passed through a good secondary school it would be as safe to rely for supplementary information under this head on the testimony of his teachers, as it is to rely on their evidence with regard to the fundamental and all-important element on which no examination supplies direct information—personal character. The main arguments of those opposed to the examination system may be summarized as follows: (i.) Examinations tend to destroy natural interests and exclude from the attention of the pupil all matters outside the purview of the examination (they would not do so if examinations Were so limited in character that preparation therefor could absorb only a fraction of the pupil's time); (ii.) they tend to cultivate a personal judgment where no personal basis of judgment is possible (this argument, directed mainly against the Oxford may system, applies not to examinations in general, but to the character of the subjects set for essays); (iii.) competitive examinations on the home and Indian civil services scheme tend to diffuse mental energy over too many subjects (but see (xviii.) below); (iv.) examinations, especially competitive examinations, tend to become more and more difficult, difficulty being confused with efficiency—this has shown itself with the Cambridge mathematical tripos, in which for years questions of increasing difficulty were set on relatively unimportant subjects, until the examination was reformed (reply: all examinations should he overhauled periodically); (v.) they tend to paralyse the powers of exposition, all statements of knowledge being thrown into a form suitable, not for an uninstructed person, but for one who already possesses it, the examiner (this tendency should be counteracted by definitetraining in composition); (vi.) the sample of knowledge and capacity yielded at an examination is frequently not a fair sample; it is liable to extreme variations in a favourable sense, if the candidate happens to have prepared the precise questions asked; in an unfavourable sense, if the candidate is suffering from misfortune or from accidental ill-health, the latter, owing to the periodic function, occurring much more frequently in the case of women than of men—[the reform of examination methods may remove to a great extent the element of chance in questions set; in a competitive examination it is impossible to allow for ill-health; in a qualifying examination it is difficult to make any allowance unless the examination is definitely conducted in whole or in part by the teachers, and the past record of the candidate is taken into account (cf. Paulsen, The German Universities, pp. 344-345)1; (vii.) examinations of several hundred candidates at a time cannot be rationally conducted so as to be equally fair to the individuality of all candidates; the individual test is the only complete one (it is admitted that examinations on a large scale necessarily involve a margin of error; but this error may be reduced to a minimum, especially by a combination of oral and practical with written work); (viii.) the multiplicity of school examinations required for different reasons produces confusion in our secondary education (there is a growing tendency to admit equivalence of " school-leaving" and entrance examinations; thus entrance examinations of Oxford, Cambridge and London, and the Northern Universities Joint Board are interchangeable under certain conditions); (ix.) the multiplicity of examinations tends to " underselling " (the success of the London examinations in medicine proves that a high standard attracts candidates as well as a low one; possibly intermediate standards may be killed in the competition; it is by no means obvious that a uniform system of examinations would conduce to efficiency); (x.) examinations produce physical damage to health, especially in the case of women-students (on this point more statistical evidence is needed; see, however, Engelmann quoted by G. Stanley Hall, Adolescence, 1905, ii. 588 et seq.); (xi.) examinations have in England mechanically cast the education of women into the same mould as that of men, without reference to the different social functions of the two sexes (the remedy is obvious); (xii.) it is unjustifiable to give a man a university position on the results of his performance in the examination room, a practice common in England though almost unknown on the continent; a just estimate of a man's powers in research or for teaching can only be properly based on his performance. The present system merely leads to the transmission of the sterile art of passing examinations. (At Oxford and Cambridge many fellowships are now awarded on the results of examination; it is sometimes stated, in defence of this system, that young men can-not be expected to carry out research in classics or philosophy.) On the other hand, the defenders of examinations reply that (xiii.) examinations are necessary in order to test the efficiency of schools to which grants of public money are given (this argument has become somewhat out of date owing to the recent substitution of " inspection " for examination as a test of the efficiency of schools; a combination of inspection and examination is also sometimes used); (xiv.) they serve as a necessary incentive to steady and concentrated work 1 (the reply made to this is that the incentive is a bad one, and that with efficient teachers it is unnecessary); (xv.) they show both student and teacher where they have failed (unnecessary for efficient teachers); (xvi.) though possibly harmful to the highest class of men, they are good for the mass (reply: no system which damages the highest class omen is tolerable); (xvii.) they are indispensable as an impartial means of selecting men for the civil service; (xviii.) in a difficult examination like the first class. civil service examination the qualities of quickness of comprehension, industry, concentration; power of rapidly passing 1 The Oxford commissioners of 1852 reported that " the examinations have become the chief instruments not only for testing the proficiency of the students but also for stimulating and directing the studies of the place " (Report, p. 61). from one subject to another, good health, are necessary for success, though not tested directly, and these qualities are valuable in any kind of work (this appears to be incontrovertible); (xix.) examination records show that success in examinations is generally followed by success in after-life, and the test is therefore efficient (it does not follow that certain rejected candidates may not be extremely efficient); (xx.) as a plea for purely " external examinations," teachers cannot be trusted to be impartial and it is better for a boy to " cram " than to curry favour with his teacher (Latham). The brief comments in brackets, appended above to the arguments, merely indicate what has been said or can be said on the other side. It can scarcely be doubted that in spite of the powerful objections that have been advanced against examinations, they are, in the view of the majority of English people, an indispensable element in the social organization of a highly specialized democratic state, which prefers to trust nearly all decisions to committees rather than to individuals. But in view of the extreme importance of the matter, and especially of the evidence that, for some cause or other (which may or may not be the examination system), intellectual interest and initiative seem to diminish in many cases very markedly during school and college life in England, the whole subject seems to call for a searching and impartial inquiry.
End of Article: EXAMINATIONS
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THOMAS EWING (1789-1871)
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Ben Wilbrink (1997). Assessment in historical perspective. Studies in Educational Evaluation, 23, 31-48. http://www.benwilbrink.nl/publicaties/97AssessmentStEE.htm George F. Madaus and Laura M. O'Dwyer, (1997). A Short History Of Performance Assessment. Lessons learned. Phi Delta Kappan, May 1999.
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