EXAMINATIONS. Examinations have lately come widely into use, and call for consideration at once as educational appliances and as tests of proficiency. Something answering to examinations must enter into all effectual instruction ; for in order that the pupil may gain solid advantage it is not enough that what he ought to know should be put before himas by giving him a book, or by making him listen to lecturesbut we must also see that he gets hold of it and understands it aright ; this is the function of examinations as appliances for education. They have, however, another use, that of tests of instruments for selection, and this purpose may clash with the educational purpose. But though the examiners may have one purpose primarily in view, and may lay down their scheme with especial reference to it, we must bear in mind that the examination must act in both ways at once. Some sort of advantage must attend on success, or else candidates will not work for it ; and, on the other hand, though an examination may only be intended to sift out the ablest, and pains may be taken to avoid giving any advantage to a particular sort of instruction, still it will be found that some particular course is most productive of marks, and this will come into favour.
The few notices which we find of examinations in old times relates to tests of qualification for professions or crafts. We gather the from notices of contests between the universities and the medical corporations in London that students had to pass an examination, after going through their apprenticeship, before allowed to practice. But we never find that an examination was the sole test ; it was always attached to a prescribed course of study and service. The foundation deeds of old endowed schools sometimes contains a provision for an examination ; the object of this seems to have been rather to ascertain that the teaching was satisfactory than to classify the boys, though sometimes prized and emoluments were awarded by the examiners.
University examinations are found to take their origin from the "disputations" which appear very early in the history of universities. Dialectical discussion had entered largely into the higher education in classical times, and when the university of Bologna was incorporated as a school of law by the emperor Frederick. I. in 1158, disputations soon came into use as exercises for degrees. The university of Paris, which was founded soon after, and which was a school of theology and of arts, adopted the same course ; and the forms of these exercises for degrees have survived to the present time in Germany, and did not disappear in England until 1860.
A student who aimed at a degree, which formerly only the more distinguished did, acted three times as opponent to other candidates, and was in time admitted to keep his "Act." This performance began by his reading a Latin thesis, in which he maintained some position in disputation against a doctor in the faculty, as well as the above named opponents, and in fact, against all comers. The debate was carried on in syllogistic form ; the passing doctor eventually summed up the controversy, and usually passed a compliment on the disputant, which was the earliest form and university honours.
Academical degrees, in their origin, implied at title to teach, as is seen in the names of Doctor and Master. The notion of a university degree as a criterion of general cultivation is comparatively recent : the B. A. or first degree, which is now so important, was not known in the earliest times, and is not even now granted in the German universities. The disputations took wonderful hold of the popular mind in the Middle Ages. It may be supposed hat students looked more to points that gave an opening for attack, or that might be ingeniously defended, than to the truth of the matter ; and as the question would be settled by an appeal to the Bible or Aristotle, a habit of looking to authority was engendered. We may catch sight of analogous evils I n the examination system ; for under this the points that are most likely to yield questions are the most studied. The two plans are only different ways in which the students may make a display of the powers or the knowledge he has acquired he has acquired. We may observe that disputations bring out "powers," such as ease of expressions in Latin, quickness in logical fence, and fertility of resource, more thoroughly than they do actual knowledge ; they are better adapted for "Art" than for sciences.
Each member of the "faculty" had a right of putting questions to the candidate for admission into it in additional to that of formally opposing him in his "Act," and this was freely exercised. This was the germ of the examination, which has since developed itself in England, and displaced the disputation. The transition from disputation to examinations took place in England during the 18th century, and it can be clearly traced at Cambridge, where the competitive system first attracted notice, from the éclat attaching to the "tripos list" and the senior and the senior wranglership. The name "tripos" has given rise to various strange guesses ; the facts are a follows. For the appointment of some university officers, and settling precedency, a list of those who took their B. A. degree was drawn out in order of priority of admission. This rule of priority was originally determined by favour ; it was a piece of patronage belonging to the "moderators," who presided at the acts, and the proctors ; afterwards it was settled according to the performances of the candidates at the acts, and eventually by the results of an examination in mathematics and natural philosophy. The day when these bachelors were inaugurated was called the "tripos" day, because on that occasion one of the old bachelor was appointed to take his place on a stool, and to dispute with the new bachelors. It was his business to make sport by a kind of mock disputation, and he was allowed much licence in his remarks. He was called "the bachelor of the stool" or "tripos," and the day was called "the tripos day." The list of names was called the tripos list, and it is probably owing to this need that there was for an order of seniority that the Cambridge tripos list came to be arranged in order of merit.
The subjects of discussion were originally taken chiefly from Aristotle ; but soon after the publication of Newstons Principia it became usual to take one at least of the there questions which the candidate had to maintain from that work ; a second frequently taken from Newtons Optics, and a third from ethical philosophy. The authorities, we find, endeavoured in vain to prevent ethics from being thrust aside, and to maintain something like respectability in the Latin. Interest was concentrated on the mathematical subjects, three-fourths of them belonging to what we should call mathematical physics. These subjects could not be dealt with thoroughly in a disputation, and therefore the moderators adopted the plain of giving out questions which were answered in English. This eventually led printed papers of questions being given, and in 1838 all vestage of the "Act" for the B.A. degree disappeared, although it was retained for a time in divinity, law, and medicine.
The history of the tripos serves to bring into relief different views as to the end which an examination is meant to serve. Originally it was intended to guide men so that they might learn what was thought best for them, and in the best way ; this the education view. But colleges had fellowships to dispose of, and the tripos list furnished incumbent on the moderators to exercise rigorous impartiality; and great pains were taken to secure fairness and to judge rightly. A list in order of merit would hardly have approved itself to public opinion in the way the tripos list did, but for the fact that the examination was almost entirely on one subject, and that a subject which admits of questions being set of every shade of difficutly, and for subjects had been combined, or if, as was the case at Oxford, the ethical element had been allowed to preponderate, the results could not have been so accurately weighed, there would have been room for difference of opinion, and the only safe course would have been to distribute the names alphabetically in several classes, or in a few classes containing wide brackets, which is nearly the same thing.
The most important change in an educational director was effected by the influence of Dr Whewell in 1848. He introduced a compulsory examination of adequate length in the elementary subjects, especially elementary natural philosophy ; this checked the practice of reading "scraps" of the higher subjects. The old educational party aimed at turning out men in the most effective condition for the ordinary struggles of life, while a later party sought to turn out mathematicians to supply the demands of the scientific world. In the old times the notion was that the senior wrangler would go to the bar, or stay at Cambridge and follow an academical career ; now his destination is very commonly a professorship in Scotland or Ireland, or in the colonies Hence the course at Cambridge has been made to include a technically scientific as well as an educational training ; and it has been thereby so much extended that the amount to be carried into the tripos is excessive. As the whole amount to be carried into the tripos is excessive. As the whole cannot be read in the three years allotted, the tripos no longer affords a fair field for all those who collect together as freshmen, as it did forty years ago. A very high place an hardly be hoped for now unless much ground has been got over before admission to the university. This point has attracted notice, and changes are about to be made (1878).
Before considering other methods, it will to take a general view of the action of examinations. First it may be observed that the employment of examinations rapidly spreads. An examination at a school may at first be confined to a few subjects ; it is then found that the rest are neglected, and however ill suited they are for examination, they must be brought in somehow. Again, if certain boys or classes are being prepared for an examination, the others think that they may take their ease, because they are not going to be examined, and the thought and interests of the teachers will commonly turn to those who have to prepare for this ordeal. Moreover, if some professions are guarded by an examination, those which are not so will become the resort of the dunces. Hence when examinations are once started they spread in all directions.
It is found that some branches of study are better suited for examination than others ; and something more must be said as to the fitness of different classes of subjects for this purpose. Certain studies endow the pupil with the faculty of doing something he could not do before, such as that of translating foreign languages, or of solving mathematical problems ; and there are other, like history, which though may add greatly to the wealth of the mans mind, yield no such definite faculty or technical dexterity. We can test the possessions of the first sort of acquirement directly, by calling on the student to put in practice the powers he is expected to have acquired. But with respect to the latter we can only ascertain that he recollects some portions of what he has prepared. By choosing these portions judiciously, we can tell whether the student has carefully studied the subject, and linked the various parts of it together, but we cannot make sure of the permanency of this knowledge. Young men used to examination will pick up just the information suited for their examination in a very short time, from an analysis or tutors note book, and forget much in a few days. This power of "getting up" and "carrying" is not without practical value. It is the power which enables a lawyer to master a mass of details, and we may allow credit for this, for it shows a good analytical memory ; but it must be observed that what is thus rewarded is not so much a knowledge of the special branch of study as a power of acquiring, which very probably might be applied to one subject as well as another.
It requires great experiences and judgment in an examiner to deal with subjects like history and literature. He must have an eye for the cardinal points, and must know how a student ought to hold things together in his mind. If the yield to the temptation which seems to beset examiners of picking out "things not generally known," and minute details which a wise man is content to leave to be looked up when he wants, then a kind of artificial knowledge, solely use in examinations, will be engendered. In this class of subjects the profit obtained by the student is not proportions to his recollection of what he has learned, and yet it is this recollection only which can be accurately measured. A student may have got good from his reading, and yet to be able to do little even in a paper that is well set ; because for an examination the subject must not only be read, it must be "got up."
The studies, on the other hand, which enable one to "do" something supply a power that is always at hand. A classical scholar can at any moment translate a passage this difference is very important. "Information subjects" burden the memory and give rise to "cram" more than the others; besides, a faculty cannot be lost in a few months and information may. The more, therefore, that a competitive examination can be made to turn on "faculty subjects" the better. Information subjects can be dealt with more satisfactorily when competitions, which should be confined to an early age, are over, and the student is fitting himself for the work of life. He will read them most profitably when he feels that he wants the information, not for display, but for practical use.
Examinations of course, tell us little directly about moral qualities ; industry, indeed, they reward, but the work produced may have been under the strong incentive of eagerness for success, or under compulsion, or in the absence of temptation, and under other circumstances the candidatess zeal may flag. Energy and tastes go far to make a man what he is, and of these examinations tell us nothing. A course of examinations tells something more as to steadiness of purposes and growth of mind than a single one, and a person who follows up an unusual kind of studysuch as till lately natural science washas probably a genuine taste for it.
It makes all the difference to the teacher whether the examination is subordinate to the teaching, or the teaching to the examination. In the first case he is really the educatorhe lays down the course he thinks best. In the second he carries out a course which may leave him no option ; and even if it embrace-alternative subjects, these must often be chosen for the marks they will bring in the time allowed rather than for the good they will do the pupil. On the other hand, if a teachers work is not subject to some external test, he may get careless, and neglect to keep himself abreast of the progress of science and of the art of teaching. Of course no public advantages could the art of teaching. Of course no public advantages could be granted to a certificate given to candidates by their own teacher, when his interest lay in getting them through. If he were independent, like an authorized public teacher, he might be trusted but he would then be a permanent examiner, and his style would soon be understood. There must, however, be some correspondence between the teaching and the examination, especially on subjects which can be treated in different ways. If a professor, for example, occupy himself with the textual criticism of a book, and the examiner ask no question on this, students will neglect the lecture. Hence the public teacher should be in communication with the examiner, or form one of a body of examiners.
In Germany the difficulty is solved in this way. At the "abiturient" examination the teachers in a gymnasium propose two questions in each subject ; of these the Government inspectors chooses one, and this the candidates who are leaving for the university answer on prayer. The errors in the answers are marked by the masters, and the papers so marked are considered by the inspector, who, along with the school authorities, and with some reference to the pupils work in school, decides on his fitness for leaving the gymnasium.
The two functions of testing acquirements and of directing and stimulating instruction do not act always along the same lines, and the examiner and teacher may therefore pull different ways. If the examiner wants to pick out the sharpest lad in a school he will give great weight to anything that shows brilliancy. Excellence, too, in any one department is a far better sign of power than mediocrity in many. But the teacher does not want the clever body to rely on his facility in Latin verses or to give himself up to his favourite study, and will make the examinations turn on the general school work. He will set questions in the parts of the subjects which involve drudgery, in order to enforce attention to them. Propositions in Euclid and questions on elementary grammar may have no effect in discriminating between two clever boys ; yet these questions must be set if Euclid and grammar are to be learnt.
Again, an examiner may only want to see that the candidate has a certain knowledge, namely, that which is required in the situation in prospect. He may want to see, for instance, that arithmetical questions can be worked correctly ; if this can be done by he may not care how the knowledge was got,all he wants being the fact that it is there. But a boy may be taught to do sums by the old mechanical rules, and this kills the reason instead of developing it. The educator is teaching the boy by means of Euclid, arithmetic, and the rest, rather than teaching him Euclid and arithmetic for their value as possessions. He will therefore frame his paper so as to show that boy has gone through the processes of study which he wants to encourage ; his questions will involved principles. His paper may not gauge powers of computation so well as one containing number of intricate sums to be done in a short time, but it shows whether the boy in learning arithmetic has used his brains.
Examinations are effective in three principal ways as regards education. First, they act as stimulants, partly by holding out the prospect of advantages of some sort, and partly by appealing to the combative spirit in human nature and the desire to excel. Stimulants are valuable in our pharmacopoeia, though liable to be used too freely. Youths who might sink into inertness are often roused to vigour by seeing a definite object to work for, or by finding themselves engaged in a contest. On the other hand, if the idea of gain is presented to young people too early, it may over-ride all other motives, such as duty and regard for authority and desire to learn. To those who have been habituated to examinations, it seems useless to work for anything in which they are not going to be examined, and the examinations will not act as a stimulus unless something is to be got by them. Hence competitive examinations should be often repeated ; a single comprehensive one at the end of a long course may do good, but it must not be kept always immediately in view. The pupil should not himself study examination papers, or speculate on the most profitable course, but should trust to his tutor, who will tell him that the best way to get marks is to learn honestly, as if for learnings sake alone. The stimulating effect of examinations leading to gain acts on parents and on schoolmasters. It leads parents to exert themselves to procure, not the best education for their sons they can, but the most direct preparation for competitions. This fosters low notions of education : people overlook the value of developed faculties and good mental habits, and seem to think that if there were no examinations their sons would want no schooling. Often it is of great importance for a youth to pass an examination when there is no time for him to get genuine knowledge ; this knowledge must then be simulated by a process called "cram," which means that the "portative memory," or carrying power, must serve as a make-shift for all other faculties. Schoolmasters find a zest given to their work by looking to the places their pupils may gain, but the course which will best for the whole youth in the end ; and then the master is pulled in the wrong direction by the eagerness of the boy or his parents, and sometimes of his own subordinates, all of whom look first to success. Masters, let it be said, for the most part resist nobody, and aim at doing real good ; but the pressure put on them adds to the wear and tear of their work.
Secondly, examinations serve as guides. A youth may seem to be listless only because his energies have not been turned into a definite channel ; when he is shown his work and is started in the way to do it, he becomes quite another being. Besides, a good examination shows what is meant by knowing a subject. The pupil or even a teacher by looking over a thoughtfully up paper of questions gets a higher standard of knowledge ; he sees the way of dealing with the subject secndam artem as opposed to any slipshod easy-going way of handling it. On the other hand, examination papers which are so meagre that the pupil finds no call on him for intelligence, or in which he can pass by doing a very small portion of the paper, have a most by doing a very small portion of the paper, have a most injurious effect. They give the pupil a low view of knowledge, and cripple the teacher, because the pupil is confident of passing with what he thinks he can learn in a week or two before the examination.
Thirdly, examinations oblige a person to be able to produce his knowledge, and encourage him to bring it out a terse and lucid style. They give no credit to loose or floating knowledge. Notions that are in solution are not available ; they must be crystallized in definite form before an examiner will accept them. Great difference is also made between an answer which is perfect and one which is not ; and this exerts a good influences, for one of the commonest defects of loosely trained minds is that they are very deficient in exactitude, and do not appreciate the enormous difference between going "somewhere near" the mark and hitting the precise point.
But examinations, even when well conducted, have will as well as good effects. They destroy spontaneity. Nine young people out of ten may quite rightly to made to move in a good "regulation groove," but the tenth would be better for having room to expatiate. The candidate who is getting up his books is busy about learning, not in thinking. If independent thoughts suggest themselves he puts them aside ; his business is with his "books," for his own thoughts cannot be set. This tendency may be obviated by allowing scope in the answers for some discursiveness (but this has its evils also) or by introducing essays, but a mans no doubt becomes "examination bound" if he is subjected to repeated definite mechanical examinations. He is kept in a state of pupilage, and only reads to recollect when he is of an age to reflect, to examine, and to judge.
This leads to the questions of age. Examinations, though good for boys, are bad for men. Those which deal with general education should not be continued beyond the age of 22. Professional examinations, or examinations in the highest parts of science, intended for those who mean to give their lives to study, must come later, but should be as little competitive as possible. By a "competitive" examination is meant one in which a candidate is depressed or excluded by the superiority of another.
Another point is the strain on the mind produced by competition. This strain is much greater, as has been said above, when many "information subjects" have to be carried in the head at once, then when the pupil has only to exercise in his examination a power which he keeps about him ; because, in the former case, he is constantly harassed by the fear that he is dropping something. It is bad for a student when he is interested in his chemistry to feed a panic about his English literature. Nothing wears out the mind so much as being pulled many ways at once, especially if this state of distraction is prolonged. Yearly trials, for instance, for some appointment, a new subject being now and then added to increase the candidates weight of metal, so habituate the mind to an artificial stimulus that pupils become incapable of studying without it. They can feel no interest in a subject if it is not to be set in an examination ; and in time their power of attention is weakened, and their minds become like India-rubber bands which have been too long on the stretch. On the other hand, young people may be expected to be equal to one great effort or perhaps to two. Such occasions may call out some heroism or self-denial, and these qualities are much needed. But for this purpose the teacher should regard the examination with respect, and teach his pupils to respect it,he must not help them to outwit the examiners. In this view it is well that the teachers should have some influence in framing or altering the examination scheme. They will then regard it will then regard it as in part their own. Moreover, the pupil should have the examination in view at the end of a long vista of study ; the preparation for it should not be hurried. The feeling of being short of time adds to worry, and prevents good work.
There are always some students of an anxious disposition who will over-flag themselves at the approach of an examination. This is more frequently the effect of over-worry than of over-work. It will usually be found on inquiry that the hours of work per diem have not been excessive, but the evil is that they have had no rest ; when not at their books they are letting their minds their run on their work, fancying they are forgetting something,they are haunted by the idea of the examination, and become physically unfit for it. But we must not throw the blame of the mischief that may thus accrue to them on the examinations. Such cases do not commonly occur among those who are aiming at the highest places, and are most exposed to the strain of competition ; very often the sufferers are merely pass men, and they are in fact unequal to any call on their nervous energies. The examination is the first all call they encounter, and their weakness is shown in that ; but they would probably have been in the same condition the first time they were called on to face any responsibility, such as to make a speech, or preach a sermon, or write an article by a given day. After an examination or two this nervousness is overcome by the stronger sort. No doubt young men have to encounter a severe strain at some examinations, and this should be reduced by lessening the load on the memory at one time. It may be very desirable for young men to learn something of six or eight subjects, but they should not be examined in all at once. It is also desirable that those who are exposed to strain of any kind should be under the eye of one who known the laws of mental and physical hygienewho can detect the first symptoms of morbid anxiety, and will have authority enough with the pupil to enforce exercise, proper diet, and mental relaxation . If the mind cannot rest, it must have a change of occupation.
The most important examinations are those which lead to university emoluments, and those by which candidates are selected for the civil service and the army.
A clever youth, destine4d for the university, is at present subjected to examinations from the age of 14 to 23 or 24. First he is brought on at a preparatory school, to compete for a scholarship at one of the large schools. The credit of his schoolmaster is involved in his success, and great pains are taken with the candidates. Usually æthe examiners understand boys, and the papers are set with judgment ; but a boy at 14 should be extending the roots of his knowledge, not arranging it for display ; and if he be trained in order to have something to show, there is a danger that solidity may be sacrificed to the early production of results. An examiner taking a school unawares, and questioning the boys, would probably detect the cleverest without doing any harm ; but when work up to papers, even if they are carefully set, there is a danger of their developing the fatal facility of remembering words with little care for ideas, which belongs to their age. It is said that those who are elected scholars often seem to fall of at first. They have worked under pressure, and the pressure is removed. They most commonly, however, rally for the next contest, which is that for open scholarships at the university. The examinations for these are now almost always in special branches of knowledge,classics, or mathematics, and natural science. The colleges too often aim at securing, not the youth who is well-educated all round, but one who is likely to obtain a high degree in a school of university honours. They want men of power ; and special distinction is held to be the best criterion of this. Schoolmasters often grieve over the necessity of having to put a boy apart to be prepared for the classical or mathematical market ; but the public looks in the newspapers for notices of scholarships gained, and a school which may do admirable work with the staple of its boys will yet be carped at if wanting in university success. Boys are hawked from college to college till they find one which will give the price,that is to say, a scholarship of the value which the parent or master thinks the boy ought to fetch. Of these youths many have little taste for things intellectual, but they have hard heads, and a keen desire to get a scholarship, without which their friends will not send them to the university. By diligent work they may get such a place in a class list as can be won without special ability. Some, of course, are of a higher order, and of a perfectly satisfactory description ; and others, on the withdrawal of the pressure that was on them at school, or under their tutors, turn idle and disappoint their purchasers.
At Cambridge, unless the students are at Trinity College, the "tripos" brings their examinations to an end. At Trinity College and at Oxford an examination by the college is held for fellowships. There are thus two systems for awarding these,that of special examinations, and that of being guided by the university honours obtained. It is in favour of the first that it gives two of three chances, and that, by affording a long period from the first admission to the university, it enables a young man to retrieve himself if his early education has been mismanaged by his friends. In some cases, too, very good work is done in the intervening years, but for this to be the case the candidate must not be anxious about the examinations. Those who profit in this way are those who may reckon pretty certainly on success. Against this special examination it is urged that it retains men in pupilage up to 24 or 25, that with may it is a question whether their chance is worth the investment of the time, and that it gives an advantage to the richer men who can study at leisure, while the poorer must support themselves at schools or by private pupils.
We now come to Government competitive examinations, such as those for the army and civil service. The object of the system was twofold. First of all it was desired to get rid of patronage, with the solicitation and trouble attending it, and, secondly, to secure the ablest men which the situations can command. The first object, no doubt, is attained, and is well worth attaining ; with regard to the second, experience seems to show that the system answers quite satisfactorily for the army, and moderately so far the civil service. The reasons of the difference are that the pay in the army is not sufficient to attract those who have no turn for the profession, or who are deficient in the traditional qualities or bearing of the British officer. This examination also is the less distracting of the two, because the number of subjects that may be taken up, both in the case of the ordinance corps and of the line, is limited, and a preponderance is given to those subjects which furnish faculties over those which result in information. If by these examinations we had to pick out 10 men out of 500 mechanism would be too rough for the purpose; but if we have to take 50, we get down to the great plateau of mediocrity, where we find a batch of candidates nearly on a level ; and even if the sixtieth man were to be a trifle better than the fiftieth, either of them would be good enough for the purpose.
The English Government encounters particular difficulty in such examinations, because there is no uniform national system of education as in Prussia, and advantage must not be given to particular schools. This makes it necessary to allow a wide option of subjects, and the result is that candidates will take, not what is best for them to know, but what will bring most "marks" within a given period of study. The tutor has to invest the pupils time in that study which promises best for his score. This is not satisfactory to the educationalist, but as a fact, if these youths were not getting up their modicum of zoology or electricity, they would probably be doing nothing better. The money value of an Indian appointment attracts many youths of a different class from those who seek for commissions ; these may be wanting in the qualities which are required to command the respect of Hindus, and they may regard their career too narrowly as an investment of brains and labour for which they expect a good return. Physical accomplishment might be allowed to carry some weight, and be required as a qualification.
The next class to be considered are "pass examinations." These are important from the large number of men they affect. By a pass examination we mean one in which the leading object is to ensure a certain standard. It does not follow that some credit may not be obtained by doing well ; indeed, for the healthy operation of the examination it is desirable that those who pass should be classified alphabetically in three or four classes. The objects of a pass examination are to sift out incapacity, and to ascertain that the candidates have gone through a certain process of education. The pass examinations of universities, both in England and in France, were until lately framed on a wrong principle. It was thought that the examinations should comprise a specimen of every kind of knowledge that an educated man should passes. If the graduates should prove ignorant of any such branch, the university, it was thought, could absolve itself from responsibility by showing that he had known it at one time. Now, however, we recognize the fact that these scraps of knowledge soon disappear. The portion of chemistry or history which the candidate has passed in is often only so much "book" learnt almost by hearth ; with those who do really well the case is different. The value of these examinations is only that they show that men can apply their minds, and can express themselves passably well. The subjects should be chosen much less for their value as information that for their requiring all they exercise of thought. Pass men are apt to reduce all they can to the action of memory ; hence subjects should be taken which inquire something more than memory. To detect "parrot-work," the examiners should be familiar with the text-books from which the text-books from which the subjects are learnt, and therefore such examinations should be in connexion with set of teaching, should be insisted on, but a dictionary might be allowed. Questions in geometry should be set in such a way what that they cannot be answered by writing out Euclid by heart.
The difficulty of a pass examination depends both on the number of compulsory subjects it contains, and on the standard maintained in each. Feeble men can get through an examination in one two subjects at a time, if the standard be moderate. Thus an examination which can be standard be moderate. Thus an examination which can be passed piece-meal, like the Cambridge "Litle-go," is a poor criterion of brains, while an examination embracing many subjects ensures a certain strength of head, but not lasting knowledge of any one thing. When an examination has to be extemporized in order to ascertain whether candidates have heads on their shoulders, it will be sufficient to read over to them once or twice some short narrative or call on them to give an account of it on paper. This will test sufficiently well many of the qualities which go to make an efficient subordinate.
It remains to say something as to practical methods of examining. Originally examinations were conducted viva voce, and they still are so in part. Examination in experimental philosophy and natural science are valueless without something of the kind. The student must perform experiments and explain them, and must identify and describe specimens. Viva voce examination is not well adapted for discriminating between candidates who are nearly equal, because they have not the same questions put to them, and nervousness is a disturbing element. The value of viva voce lies chiefly in detecting shallow knowledge. It convicts an impostor. On paper a candidate may avoid a searching question; in viva voce he has no escape. The objection to its employment is its great expense. It requires very skilled examiners, two of whom ought to sit together ; and the examination should last a quarter of an hour for each man. When the numbers are large this involves a long period of examination and great cost. The German system of giving only one question in each subject for a pass examination, and allowing plenty of time, but requiring a very full and perfect answer, is well suited for fairly prepared men, who have only to be roughly classified as "excellent," "good," "fair," and "indifferent." This forces the candidate to study the whole subject carefully, while if a dozen questions are given, as in England, candidates will speculates on passing with a knowledge of only half the subject.
Essays may be used in examinations in two ways, Subjects of a general nature, like a maxim or topic of the day, may be proposed, in which case readiness and fertility of ideas are tested, but a kind of superficiality and glibness is engendered ; or the student may be required to write on some subject belonging to his course. The classical student, for instance, might write on a point of Greek history. A dissertation written at leisure is an excellent means of judging of qualification, and may be used for those who are past the proper age for examination.
In marking a paper the examiner distributes his marks to the questions according to the difficulty or the time they take to answer. The aggregate of the marks may not coincide with his impression, and it may be well to keep back one quarter of the marks, to be allotted afterwards, according to the impression obtained when the papers are read over again, not question to use negative marks, as an answer may reveal such ignorance as to show that some of the correct answer were "parrot-work." When different subject are compared, a little knowledge should go for nothing, and excellence should not count for much. It is a good plant to add to the marks got the excess above half the full value assigned to the paper, and then deduct one quarter of the full value, e.g., if the full value be 500 and the candidate obtain 400, his score will stand thus:
400 + 150 125 = 425.
Candidates for honours may be arranged in order of merit, as is common at Cambridge, or alphabetically classed, as at Oxford. In the first case brackets should be used, so as to class as equal those who fall within certain limits of uncertainty. These limits will be wider where there is room for difference of opinion among the examiners, as in composition or philosophy, than in mathematics. If the candidates whose marks differ by as much as twelve per cent. Are bracketed together, we come to something like an alphabetical arrangement in classes. When the alphabetical system in adopted those who are sure of a first class are freed from anxiety. But many are in suspense about their class, and the difference between being in a first or second class alphabetically arranged is greater than that between being last in the class or first in the second class, where the lists are in order of merit.
Out of 1000 young men who come to a university with a view to taking a degree, we find from experience that, roughly speaking, the following proportions will hold good:250 will have both good abilities and the requisite power of will, and will take creditable honours ; about 200 more will be comparatively weak in one of other of these qualifications, but may still get a place in an honour school or tropos ; the next 150 will be the more vigorous pass men, who will show intelligence in subjects of but moderate difficulty, will enter keenly into the life of the place, and will pass their examinations respectably ; 200 more will pass without failure; the 100 that follow will meet with failures more or less frequently ; and the remaining 100 will never pass any university examination at all. Some of these last instances may almost be regarded as cases of disease, arising from infirmity of will of the want of the power to fix the attention. Neglect of the early acquisition of good metal habits is the cause of many failures. A youth may be rejected once from love of amusement or from underrating the examination, but he does not fail again if he can help it. A second failure shows moral or intellectual incapacity.
On this subject see"Remarks on State of Education at Cambridge," in Dr John Jebbs works, 1774 (here we find the first plan for examining the pass men) ; Peacock, On the Statutes of the University of Cambridge, 1840 ; Whewell, Of a Liberal Education, 1848 ; Reports of her Majestys Commissioners on Oxford, 1852, and on Cambridge, 1854 (in the latter see the evidence of Dr Philpott, Prof. Stokes, Dr Merivale, Mr R. Leslie Ellis, and Mr W. Hopkins) ; Suggestions on Academical Organization, Mark Pattison, B.D. (referring to Oxford) ; L. Wiese, German Letters on English Education, translated by L. Schmitz, 1877 ; Education in Oxford: its methods, its aids, and its rewards, James E. Thorold Rogers; Conflict of Studies, I. Todhunter, F. R. S., 1873 ; Higher Schools and Universities in Germany, M. Arnold, 1874 ; On the Action of Examinations, H. Latham, 1877 ; Report to the French Government on Education in England, by M. Demogeot and M. Montucci, 1870 ; Third Report of Royal Commissioners on Scientific Instruction, 1873 ; M. Burrows, Pass and Class, Oxford, 1873; Students Guide to the University of Cambridge, 1874; Twentieth Report of Civil Ser-vice Commissioners, 1876. PERIOD ICALS.Mind, No. 1, 1873, "Philosophy at Oxford," Mark Pattison, B.D.; Fortnightly Review, June 1875, "The Examination System at the Universities," A. H. Sayce; Contemporary Review, April 1876, "ldle Fellowships," H. Sidgwick, and November 1877, "The Civil Service Ex-amination Scheme in relation to Sciences and to Languages," Alex. Bain, LL.D.; Nineteenth Century, April 1878, "The Good and Evil of Examination," Canon Barry; Quarterly Journal of Edu-cation, April and July 1872, "On the Leaving Examinations of Prussia," by W. C. Perry; Macmillans Magazine, June 1877, "On German Schools," W. C. Perry, and March 1878, "German Views of Oxford and Cambridge."