Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 6 December 2020

UAE pupils turn focus to coursework in case exams are cancelled

Pupils are hoping good results in internal assessments will help secure them a university seat, should exams be cancelled due to Covid-19

Jasmine Hewartson, a pupil at Cranleigh Abu Dhabi, is bracing for exams to be cancelled again this year. Courtesy: Jasmine Hewartson
Jasmine Hewartson, a pupil at Cranleigh Abu Dhabi, is bracing for exams to be cancelled again this year. Courtesy: Jasmine Hewartson

Pupils are choosing to dedicate more time to coursework and internal tests this year in case end-of-year exams are cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Last summer, the cancellation of final year exams – including the International Baccalaureate, A-levels, and some Indian School Certificate tests – meant pupils were graded based on mock exams or internal projects. This left many feeling as though they were unfairly represented by their results.

This year, some schools have given pupils the choice to place greater weight on their coursework and early exams in case final year exams do not go ahead.

Everything is so unpredictable that we have to ensure grades are good right from the beginning as we do not know which grades will be useful

Chhavi Nankani, The Ambassador School Dubai

Jasmine Hewartson, a British Azerbaijani pupil in year 13 at Cranleigh Abu Dhabi, has elected to be assessed in English through coursework to guarantee a portion of her grades and ensure a spot at her university of choice.

“The thought that exams could be cancelled is stressful as internal assessments would be used as evidence," said Ms Hewartson, 18.

"Having so much emphasis on exams with everything that was going on was too stressful.

"I used to have exams in English but have replaced it with coursework after seeing what happened to pupils last year."

She said she was spending a lot more time working independently now than she did last year and felt she had to catch up on a lot after studying remotely for a few months.

"I opted to do coursework with the hope that it would alleviate some stress," said Ms Hewartson, who hopes to be accepted into the University of Cambridge.

"Last year, there were many people who lost places at universities because they did not get the grades they felt they deserved. It was stressful thinking of what would happen to us."

Some of Ms Hewartson's peers, who sat the exams last year, appealed their results after receiving lower grades than expected. They were graded based on coursework, predicted grades and historical performance of schools.

After IB and A-level pupils around the world complained of losing university seats, their results were revised.

Chhavi Nankani, a grade 12 Indian pupil at Ambassador School in Bur Dubai said she felt pressured to prepare for mock exams from the beginning of the term. Courtesy: Chhavi Nankani
Chhavi Nankani, a grade 12 Indian pupil at The Ambassador School, feels under pressure to perform well in mock exams. Courtesy: Chhavi Nankani

For Chhavi Nankani, a 12th grade pupil at The Ambassador School in Bur Dubai, distance learning has been a blessing. The time she typically spent commuting to school can now be used to study instead.

Chhavi, 17, is worried the Indian School Certificate exams will be cancelled again this year - as her home country reports record cases of Covid-19 each day.

"Everyone is pressured and motivated to work hard in term one for mock exams as board exams may be cancelled."

She said pupils who used to believe in last minute cramming are now preparing well in advance.

"Everything is so unpredictable that we have to ensure grades are good right from the beginning as we do not know which grades will be useful," she said.

Teachers said they have noticed a shift in how pupils approach coursework this year and are encouraging them to invest more time in mock exams and projects.

Jodh Singh Dhesi, deputy chief education officer at Gems Education, said what happened last year showed "how important it is to work all through the year and how important it is that mock exams are done with absolute commitment."

Education authorities in UK have said many GCSE and A-level exams will be delayed by a few weeks next year.

Brendon Fulton, principal at Dubai British School Jumeirah Park, said the school was bracing for further disruptions to exams this year.

"We are making extra certain that mock exams and coursework components are conducted with the utmost rigour and that the students are taking them seriously and preparing for them, with the possibility that final exam grades may again be derived from such components," he said.

Updated: October 23, 2020 06:35 PM

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