The Problem with Prelims by Ashley Pannell

Shout out to my friend Jonathan, who gave me the idea for this. 


Preliminary examinations, or prelims, are something that almost all secondary pupils in Scotland have to face. Essentially, they are practice exams that are supposed to show you and your teachers what stage you are at in the subject you are studying and whether you should consider studying the subject at higher or lower level. And they're freaking awful.


But that's okay, because they're generally supposed to be. Prelims are harder because they're designed to stress students out so they study harder for the exam and thus do better in the final grade. 


The main problem I have with prelims is the timing.


I go to a school where prelims are done in January. You have to sit in a hall or room for two hours with a bunch of other people and sit a freaking exam. 


Prelims in January totally ruin your Christmas holidays, because either you are studying (at Christmas!!!!) and your holiday spirit is significantly lessened or you're not studying and you're beating yourself up for not studying, which lessens your Christmas experience! It's a lose-lose situation either way. 


And, not only that, but once you've come back from a nice, long holiday of essentially doing nothing ('cause it's Christmas), you have no time whatsoever to adjust to being back at school before you have to sit in a hall for two hours exams that have no impact on your final grade! You're basically freaking yourself out over something that won't have any influence on your final grade but can decide if you sit the final exam. 


The phrase 'It sucks' doesn't encompass my thoughts nearly enough. 


It is my personal belief that all prelims should either be in December or February. 


Prelims being before December means that students will be able to enjoy their holidays and might even feel like they've earned it after all the hard work they put into them or, if pupils haven't done as well as they should've, it'll serve as a reality check and they can review their options for their future academic career over the holidays.


The point is, the holidays give people a much needed break from their normal lives and this break helps them put things into perspective. They have the opportunity to see what they prioritize in their lives and what they should prioritize. It helps people see what really matters to them and what they want their future to be like. 


However, having the prelims in December is less ideal as, although it gives people their holidays to themselves, I feel as though students might not know enough about the course to be able to sit a prelim on it.


This would make having the prelims in February more ideal, as it would mean people:

a) have their holidays to themselves and get a much needed break from school

b) have enough time to adjust to being back at school

and c) will have studied enough of the course to be able to sit an exam about it.


Having prelims in February seems like the most ideal options for me because of these reasons. Those who are serious about studying for their exams will be able to see what they need to work on and those who aren't will hopefully have their minds changed by their results. 


However, there are some schools in Scotland that don't do prelims, which I don't think is good (yes I do know what I'm talking about). Although, in thought, having no prelims sounds great (so, so great), I think it is good for students to have a taste of what sitting exams are like before actually sitting them because they will be more accustomed to them by the time they actually have to sit the exams which (should) help them perform better.  


So overall, prelims are useful but I wish they were in February.