Marks on paper, lessons for life

Marks on paper, lessons for life

As long as my children were at school, four times a year they would go through the exam blues. Not that they were negligent about or indifferent to studies and knowledge. Yet, exams meant extra diligence,  burning the midnight oil, and worst of all, having to give up their play time for extra hours of learning and revision.

As a mother I could only empathise and assure them that there would be fewer exams once they advanced to college. Yet, now that they've moved to college, it is the painful familiar situation again. With quizzes and the semester pattern at college, they seem to be preparing and facing exams all-year round.

To my great surprise all the same, I see that they are coping with the regular tests with much ease and maturity now. The grind of having faced exams at school perhaps contributes to the effortless preparation at college.

And possibly, I wondered the other day, these college exams will also help them take the many tests that life is waiting to throw at them when they venture into the big wide world. For, in the spirit of an exam, my adult brain tells me, is contained several values that can be imbibed and practised all through life.

Take the biggest of all virtues, honesty. Don't we learn it best in an exam hall? I recall the words of my college professor several years ago as he entered the examination hall to distribute the university question papers: "Students, today you will be taking two exams, one in Business Mathematics, and the other in honesty. If you should fail in the former it does not matter, make sure you don't fail in the latter."

I still remember how the words stung us youngsters. Though we never gave much significance to it at that time, I'm sure many of us in the hall that day thought twice before peeping into the neighbour's paper to fudge an answer we did not know. And, I guess this wisdom got an affirmation in our personalities, penetrating our souls, leaving an indelible mark in our understanding of this all-embracing virtue to be true and fair in all dealings.

Exams also teach us the importance of preparation. No matter how well our intentions are, unless they are converted into preparation and action, they serve no purpose. Preparation, in turn, opens our being to hard work, constancy and creativity. When all these are diligently applied, accuracy and confidence are achieved effortlessly.

Exams open us to the very noteworthy virtue of punctuality. As students, we understand and appreciate the importance of being punctual to exams. Taking instructions from the invigilator, maintaining the decorum of the exam, and applying the mind in answering the questions asked, all look monotonous, yet, are instilled and strengthened in us in every exam we take.

Even the post-exam period inculcates some learning in us. As we await exam results, we learn to be patient and develop the humility to accept the teacher's evaluation. Getting ready for the next set of exams trains us in facing the ever-recurring cycles of life. Indeed, the seeds of every virtue that's tested later in our daily lives are laid in the frequent exams we have faced in our formative academic years.

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