Throughout my academic career, I have been surrounded by students and their numerous queries, be it at the University where I teach or at my home where both my sons ask for help to complete their schoolwork.
One question that frequently pops up in these young and impressionable minds is how to score highly. As an academic, I have a larger concern – Why is there a need for a high score?
There has been an ongoing debate over whether high scores are a true reflection of knowledge and skills or not. One emerging school of thought is to abolish memory-based exams that are believed to encourage rote learning stemming from mere memorisation of information and unnecessary repetition. Researchers have proved that higher grades based on memorisation of facts do not lead to a deeper understanding of a subject. Memory-based learning helps you in scoring marks but does not encourage connecting the previously learned concepts with the new ones!
Having said that, we cannot underestimate the significance of rote learning for being a necessary evil towards developing foundational knowledge. Imagine learning the alphabet, numbers, tables, formulas, concepts, and so on without memorising. Memorising certainly leads to better performance in exams, and higher marks. Therefore, the role of rote learning, as the premise of higher-level thinking, should not be ignored.
As a student, you must learn, and if the memorisation of concepts is required for that, go ahead and do it. However, this process should not be only to score high marks, rather you should aim at learning meaningfully.
The emphasis here is that understanding a concept should be followed by its application in real life situations.
So should you be aiming for high marks in exams? The answer lies in how the marks are perceived. If the marks are just used to compare students and judge their capabilities, the answer is a big NO. High marks certainly give you and your parents a better impression in the society – However, this is just an added advantage but not the real reason. The marks should rather be used for identifying the improvement areas for oneself. Higher scores boost your confidence.
I am sure if you try to recall your previous exam marks, you will remember your high scores and also your low scores.
We never forget the subjects in which we score high, and we are eager to study more for those subjects. Subsequently, high scores help you in analysing your favourite field of work in the future. High scores are important but they are not everything. Remember that your marks are not a guarantee for a good future, unless you acquire appropriate skills and competency in the chosen areas.
In other words, high marks without meaningful learning are just momentary achievements. So keep learning, keep preparing for exams, keep scoring high marks but also keep acquiring new skill sets, keep participating in sports and co-curricular activities and keep exploring your interest areas.