Letter: What exams test

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Coursework and exams are unlikely to be able to furnish "genuinely equivalent academic qualifications" (letter, 28 August). Coursework does not give the bright student credit for completing a given assignment to a given standard quickly; and because coursework is usually done on computers, it allows the student who cannot write grammatically, spell or punctuate to appear just as able as his colleague (and future competitor for jobs) who can write well without recourse to spell-check and grammar-check functions. Thus, if coursework were to replace exams, the comparatively slow and illiterate could appear as well-qualified as the quick, efficient and literate.

For these reasons, conventional exams should be retained. If, as a society, we value literacy, we can thereby ensure that those who have taken the trouble to acquire it are identified by their degree results. This is only fair to them and to their future employers.

TOM SHEPHERD

Brighton, East Sussex

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