As students across the country have received their results that they have worked so hard for, the resounding and quite disheartening question remains ‘Are exams getting easier?’ This statement is inherently toxic; students who do well in their exams and have revised and worked hard for months are made to feel like it is worthless and expected of them anyway, and those who do not perform to the best of their ability are made to feel inadequate and much worse than they already did. So how can we tell if they are getting easier?

It could be argued that exams are quantifiably easier than they used to be (but even this statement is debatable).  Some may argue that students are getting higher grades year after year, so obviously they must be easier. What other explanation could there be? Well, actually there are several. Could it not be considered that today’s children are actually getting smarter? This may seem like a sweeping generalisation, but then so is the claim that “exams are getting easier”. But today’s youth have access to more information at the touch of a button than previous generations had at even the most well stocked libraries, so is it that ridiculous to assume they might know more as a result?

There is one thing that is never considered in the rush to pass sweeping judgements on the exam results. Even if the exams are easier, this is a purely relative measure. Today’s GCSE students have never sat an O-Level exam, they never will. They have no idea how easy or hard they were; they aren’t even taught the same material. Their psychosocial contact is completely different. To them, the exams they sit are still the most difficult assessments they have ever faced, and they are reminded of how important exams are with alarming frequency. And of course, stress impacts on test performance.

The debate of whether exams are getting easier is a never ending one, there will always be the underlying assumption that students within schools have it easier than a few years ago, or new curriculums are easier or the marking is less harsh. However, whatever reason you favour, the ones who are not to blame are the ones sitting the exams; the students themselves.

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