Are Exams a Good Measure of Intelligence

In today’s education system, the role of exams as a measure of intelligence has long been debated and scrutinised. The pressure to perform well in high-stakes exams often raises questions about their ability to capture the true intelligence and capabilities of individual students accurately. Are exams really a fair and comprehensive assessment of one’s intellectual capacity?

This blog delves into the intricacies of this age-old question and challenges the conventional notion that exams provide a definitive measure of intelligence. We’ll explore the limitations and potential biases associated with exams, as well as alternative perspectives that shed light on different dimensions of human intelligence.

What are Standardised Tests?

Standardised exams follow a uniform format, with all pupils presenting identical questions and answer choices. These exams are usually under more controlled conditions in an exam hall and scored consistently, comparing pupil performance and group achievements. Many examinators and professionals consider standardised exams a fair and objective method of assessing pupils because the standardised format reduces the potential for favouritism, bias, or subjective evaluations.

However, many would argue that exams provide a limited measure of a student’s education and intelligence, failing to capture essential aspects like creativity and innovation. These skills are often undervalued forms of intelligence that can greatly benefit children as they grow and mature. Instead of solely focusing on cramming facts, exam boards and other education bodies should foster and include assessments where other forms of intelligence are tested to determine the student’s final grade.

Group Of Teenage Students Sitting Examination In School Hall

Pros of the Standardised Exams

  1. Standardised exams provide a consistent benchmark for assessing student performance across schools and regions, enabling fair comparisons and identifying areas of improvement.

  2. They help evaluate the effectiveness of educational policies and curriculums, enabling data-driven decision-making to enhance the quality of education.

  3. Standardised exams can identify achievement gaps and disparities in educational outcomes, highlighting the need for targeted interventions and resources to support disadvantaged students.

  4. They provide a standardised measure of academic attainment, facilitating university admissions and employment opportunities based on a common assessment framework.

  5. Standardised exams promote accountability in the education system by holding schools, teachers, and students accountable for their performance, fostering a culture of continuous improvement.

Cons of the Standardised Exams

  1. Standardised exams can create a narrow focus on rote memorization and test-taking skills, neglecting the development of critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving abilities.

  2. They may generate undue stress and anxiety among students, leading to negative impacts on mental health and well-being.

  3. Could fail to capture the full range of a student’s abilities and potential, as they are limited to a specific format and content, overlooking individual strengths and diverse learning styles.

  4. Standardised testing can promote a “teaching to the test” mentality, narrowing the curriculum and sacrificing a more holistic and comprehensive education.

  5. The emphasis on standardised exams can result in a high-stakes environment that puts excessive pressure on students and may lead to a diminished love for learning, as the focus becomes solely on achieving high scores rather than fostering a genuine passion for knowledge.

Teenage Students In Uniform Sitting Examination In School Hall

There are Different Types of Intelligence

There are various theories and models that propose different types of intelligence. One well-known framework is Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, which suggests that there are multiple independent forms of intelligence. According to Gardner, these include:

  1. Linguistic intelligence: Is the ability to use language effectively, such as through writing or public speaking.

  2. Logical-mathematical intelligence: The capacity for logical reasoning and problem-solving is often associated with mathematical thinking.

  3. Spatial intelligence: The aptitude for perceiving and manipulating visual-spatial information is important in activities like navigation or art.

  4. Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence: Skill and control in bodily movements, such as in sports, dance, or crafts.

  5. Musical intelligence: Sensitivity to rhythm, pitch, and sound, enabling musical abilities and appreciation.

  6. Interpersonal intelligence: Proficiency in understanding and interacting with others, including empathy, social skills, and leadership.

  7. Intrapersonal intelligence: Self-awareness and introspective capabilities, involve understanding one’s own emotions, goals, and motivations.

  8. Naturalistic intelligence: A keen awareness and understanding of the natural world, including plants, animals, and ecosystems.

  9. Existential intelligence (proposed by some theorists): The capability to contemplate philosophical or existential questions about life, meaning, and existence.

It’s important to note that these are just some examples, and different models may propose additional types or have variations in their categorisations. Intelligence is a complex and multifaceted concept, and there is ongoing debate and exploration within the field of psychology regarding its nature and diversity. Our key point is that standardised tests solely measure one facet of intelligence, specifically memory, and fail to assess other forms of intelligence.

However, Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences has faced criticism for its broad definition and lack of empirical support, with some arguing that the “parts of intelligence” he proposes are better understood as talents or personality traits. Yet the theory remains popular among educators who embrace its concepts and strive to incorporate multiple intelligences into their teaching approaches, benefiting students in diverse ways.

Students getting exam results in their school

Essay checklist

Now if you aren’t sure where to start writing during an exam, don’t worry we’ve got you with our simple essay structure example. Generally, most school teachers will teach their students how to write an essay under exam conditions, but here’s our basic guide to follow when sitting an exam:

  1. When you get your exam paper or assessment make sure you read the question twice. Make sure you understand what the question is asking you before you come up with your ideas, position your direction and prepare your argument.

  2. Break the question down into sections. This is a useful way to figure out how to manage your exam time effectively with the best chance of success and as little stress as possible.

  3. Now when you start writing your essay here is the basic structure you need to follow:

    • Introduction: Introduce the subject and explain in brief detail the ideas and arguments you are going to present in this essay.

    • Body: This part of your writing should be made up of at least three sections, where you create the main interest of the essay, for example, the for and against arguments. An exam board will be looking for words loaded with references to the course reading and module components.

    • Conclusion: This is where you bring all your subject knowledge and reading to conclude the assessment. Determining your final viewpoint and decide your final position on the evidence and research presented above.

  4. Finally, when you have finished writing ensure you spend 10 minutes at the end of the exam to proof-read and double-check your work before you put down your pen.

The important part of an exam is to always P.E.E.

1. Point

The main idea of each paragraph should be clearly stated and directly respond to the question or assignment brief.

2. Evidence

When you make a point or statement in an essay it is important to include relevant evidence or an example that supports the point being made, ensuring that only the necessary information is included in the essay.

3. Explain

After presenting the evidence, it is crucial to explain how the evidence connects and supports the point being discussed. This helps to provide a deeper understanding of the argument and its relevance.


The consensus now amongst not just academics or educators, but the general public is that standardised written exams do not in any shape or form test an individual’s, particularly a child’s intelligence. Exam boards now have multiple ways a student’s intelligence is tested through individual modules, which include courses which can come in any shape or form from creative artwork performances to written research projects.

With that said, if you are a person who struggles when it comes to essay writing or sitting an exam speak to your teacher and don’t leave revision to the last minute. Being prepared and taking the time to do your homework for each one of your subjects will help you write your essays in more depth and more control. A significant proportion of students who take time to prepare and conduct research for their exams are more likely to achieve their desired final grade than those who start revision several days before the exam.


The views expressed in this blog are not intended to undermine the importance of exams or negate their role in specific contexts, but rather to encourage a critical examination of their limitations and explore opportunities for a more comprehensive understanding of intelligence.

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