Are beginning of term exams relevant?

The short holiday has already ended and students have returned to school for the third term. It is the first week and as usual, they are told to prepare for the beginning of term exams scheduled for a few days’ time, and whose timetable might already be out. Some might have even started the exams already.For a number of students who took the holiday in its literal meaning during which time it was all play and no reading, panic mode sets in for these exams will constitute part of their end of term marks. So they have a reason to develop exam fever. They didn’t study while at home and the short notice they have to prepare themselves for this is a source of great fear and anxiety.
Students doing exams in Kigali last year.  The New Times/ Timothy Kisambira
Students doing exams in Kigali last year. The New Times/ Timothy Kisambira

The short holiday has already ended and students have returned to school for the third term. It is the first week and as usual, they are told to prepare for the beginning of term exams scheduled for a few days’ time, and whose timetable might already be out. Some might have even started the exams already.

For a number of students who took the holiday in its literal meaning during which time it was all play and no reading, panic mode sets in for these exams will constitute part of their end of term marks. So they have a reason to develop exam fever. They didn’t study while at home and the short notice they have to prepare themselves for this is a source of great fear and anxiety.

Holiday is also the time some parents bond with their children by taking them to exotic holiday destinations and reading during this time becomes killjoy for many of them.

On the other hand, those who found time to read at home are relishing the challenge, saying “bring it on.” This is their chance to get out of the blocks and lead the pack from the start. They cannot wait for the exams to begin.

This is a tale of two bodies of students trapped in a similar situation with different ammunitions (read preparedness) to tackle a similar challenge. And with this comes the question: Are beginning of term exams relevant in today’s academic situation?

According to Erick Oketch, a teacher at Good Foundation School in Remera, the beginning of term exams is like a double edged sword, having both its advantages and disadvantages.

“The main argument for these exams is that it’s for a smooth transition of activities from the previous term to the next one. When pupils are tested when they open school, the teacher can gauge if they have mastered well the previous lessons so that he or she knows where to start at the beginning of the fresh term.”

He says that as teachers, the exams help them properly plan for term activities since they are able to know which areas still need to be revised. “We get our feedback from the exams. We normally make lesson plans at the beginning of the term and this enables us know which grey areas still need to be covered. It also makes us fix remedial lessons for a number of students whom we feel need additional lessons so that they can catch up with the rest,” he adds.

On the other hand, he adds that some students normally come back from home with holiday hangovers. These students, he observes, take even two weeks to fully realise that they are back to school and settling down to class work becomes a problem to them. “These students are disadvantaged when subjected to exams immediately they come back to school, and failure in these exams might affect their concentration for the rest of the term,” he says.

Joel Ondeko a teacher at Riviera High School argues that many students tend to leave their books behind after being in school for many weeks with their teachers. They will not read when home.

“In order to discourage this attitude among the culprits, they will have no option but to read at home for they will be keen on passing the exams administered at the beginning of the term.”

He says that once at home, they would want to compare notes with fellow students from other schools and ensure that they have the best materials that would help when they are tested in the beginning of the term exams. This, he says prevents laziness among students who might as well have sat on their laurels since they know that they have no major test coming when school opens.

“Many of the weak students will want to come and perform and show that they have changed and can perform better, their morale is boosted when they see that on the first exam or the beginning of the term they have performed well.  They therefore engage teachers and private tutors who also show them the different methods of reading, solving mathematical equation, revising and answering past papers,” says  Ondeko.

He reiterates that this is also a great way through which peer pressure among students can be avoided. “Students that know they have exams at the beginning of the term will try so much to avoid peer influence since they will be busy reading for the exams instead of engaging in irresponsible activities like drug abuse, watching pornographic materials, x-rated movies and sexual activities.”

On the contrary, Ondeko says that students need time to relax after being in school with teachers for a long time. “They need to visit their relatives and friends, go for holidays and generally relax with activities like sports without intimidating prospects of exams hanging over their heads like the sword of Damocles.

A parent in Kimisagara slums, Christine Hiyatezu whose child attends one of the local schools says that students from poor families are normally disadvantaged by these  beginning of term exams since a number of them don’t report to school for the first few days when school opens.

“It’s at this time that some parents are still looking for fees to enable their children go to school. But when exams are done in the first weeks and the school insists that only children who’ve paid fees would be allowed in class for the exams, then it becomes a big problem. Some have even missed doing these exams, compromising their overall results at the end of the term.”

She adds that it would be appropriate if only two exams are administered during the term, the mid-term and end term exams since this will ensure all the students have equal opportunity.

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your views...

Marcellin Hamudara, Riviera High School


Yes the beginning of term exams are helpful because the students will keep on revising their notes so that it will not be difficult for them to continue with their studies after holidays. The major disadvantage with it is that there are times when the term has been very long while the holiday was too short and the students will need time to relax.  

Magana Karim, S.5 Science Riviera High School

It is important indeed because it helps to boost and charge the students’ mind after the holiday where they mainly relax. It is the best way to get one back to the school programme mode. 

Calvin Kirenga, Riviera High School


Holidays will lose meaning and fun since work without play makes Jack a dull boy. It also wastes a lot of time because there will be one week to do the exams or tests, one week to mark and more than 2 days to correct the mistakes found. This time  could have been used in covering the syllabus.

Joel Ntwari, S 6 Science Riviera High School

There is no need in wasting time preparing and marking the beginning of the term exams while there is the midterm and the end of term exams. The period for doing the beginning of the term exam can be used for syllabus coverage.

 

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