Greater emphasis is placed on examination results in Britain than in many other countries. Most universities and employers still rely mainly on exam results for evidence of a person’s academic ability.Children in England and Wales complete National Curriculum Tests, (still often called by their former name, standard assessment tasks or SATs) at ages 7, 11 and 14 as part of the National Curriculum. These tests are set nationally and results can be compared across the country. In some areas children take an eleven-plus exam to decide where they will go for their secondary education.In secondary schools exams are usually held at the end of each school year to assess students’ progress. The most important exams are the national GCSE exams that children take at 16. Schools are free to choose which of several examination boards they use to set and mark GCSE exams. Exams are marked on a seven-point scale, A to G, with an additional grade, A*, being awarded to those who reach the highest standard. Final grades are now based on continuous assessment, i.e. marks gained for essays and project work during the course, as well as on a student’s performance in the exam. Many students take GCSE exams in seven or eight subjects, sometimes more.Students who do well in their GCSEs usually go on to take A level. exams two years later. Most study four or five subjects at AS level in the first year and then three at A2 level in the second year. They must achieve reasonably high grades in order to be offered a place at university.In Scotland students sit Scottish Certificate of Education exams which, at Standard Grade, are the equivalent of GCSEs. The highest grade is 1. A year later students take the higher grade, Highers. After a further year some students take Advanced Highers.At university students work towards a degree, and most courses end in a series of exams called finals. Many take an honours degree which is awarded in one of several classes. The highest class is a first. The second class is often split between upper second and lower second (a 2:1 and a 2:2), and below that is the third class. If a student does not meet the standard for an honours degree they may be awarded a pass degree.In the US there are no national exams like those in Britain. Students at school and university usually take one or more exams as part of their grade assessment (= a mark from A to E or F showing how well they have done) for each class. At colleges and universities these exams are often called midterms or finals, and during the year students have exams in all or most of their classes.People who wish to study at a US university usually have to take one of several standardized tests. Students going to university for the first time may take the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) or the ACT (American College Test). People who want to do a higher degree may take the GRE (Graduate Record Examination), LSAT (Law School Admission Test) or MCAT (Medical College Admission Test), depending on what they want to study. Students from other countries must usually show a knowledge of English and the most common test for this purpose is the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language). Standardized tests often do not test how much people know about a subject, but how strong their skills are in areas like reading and solving problems. People do not pass or fail but instead each college or university decides on the lowest score it will accept. Test scores are never the only factor to be considered in deciding whether to offer a place to a student.Some professions require people to pass special exams before they are qualified to practise. Lawyers in the US, for example, must pass the bar exam in the state in which they wish to work, to show that they know the laws of that state.
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