Preparing for exams like preparing for the Olympics?

Posted by John Kleeman

Staring out of the window from my desk in the Questionmark office in London, I can just about see the Olympics stadium. London has been preparing for the Olympics for years, and I hope you enjoy the show. Here’s a better view of the stadium than I have from my office!

 It struck me recently that there are many similarities in how Questionmark users prepare for exams and the exacting task of preparing for the Olympics. Questionmark is in no way associated with or connected with the London Olympics, but in the spirit of the games I’d like to share some thoughts.

Here are some similarities between preparing for the Olympics and preparing for exams.

Athletes prepare and practice for the Olympics, aiming to do their best at a key opportunity. Similarly, exam candidates prepare and practice, seeking to do their best.

At the Olympics, it’s essential to have a fair and open field, without any athlete being able to cheat or get an unfair advantage.  It’s the same with exams.

At the Olympics, organizers need to prepare in case things go wrong and plan for all eventualities. So, too, with computerized exams, we have to plan well in advance and think through contingencies to be sure that everything goes well on the day.

Unfortunately there are occasional athletes who try to cheat in the Olympic Games, and strong anti-cheating measures are taken. Likewise, in computerized assessment, we need to put measures in place to make it difficult to cheat.

The Olympics need accurate records of results, to prove who won which race and as evidence of achievement. And users of computerized exams rely on Questionmark or other software to achieve valid, reliable, trustable exam results.

And here is one thing that is very different.

Although the Olympics may be the greatest show in the world, they are ultimately about sporting prowess and our entertainment. The stakes at the Olympics are very high for athletes and their fans, but team or individual results do not significantly impact the world at large.

The stakes are far higher for exam takers and those around them. People who pass exams go on to be critical members of our society – medical professionals, university graduates, banking executives, IT specialists and more. Exams are used to qualify people for key roles in our society. Just like the Olympics, most exams are offered for public access and allow top performers to participate and demonstrate their capability. You may not have billions of television viewers for your assessments, but what you are doing in running assessments may be just as important to society as the Olympic Games.

I hope you enjoy and are inspired by the London Olympic Games.

Leave a Reply