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Exams? ICMS Prefers Authentic Assessments

Exams? ICMS Prefers Authentic Assessments

August 13, 2021

At ICMS, students may never have to write exams. With authentic assessment methods, this new generation of ICMS students may never experience the nightmares of having forgotten to study an exam that their parents will remember. Instead, they will be actively engaged in productive learning where activities have been designed to build skills and knowledge in a coherent and structured way that is relevant to their future careers.

Imagine going into work one day and your boss says, ‘Please sit down for three hours and write down everything you know about this topic – from memory alone. And don’t ask your colleagues for input.’ This scenario just doesn’t happen in the real world. And because of that, it is not the preferred way to assess student knowledge and skill at ICMS.

Jonathan Hvaal, ICMS Senior Learning Designer and Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA), sums it up, “At the tertiary level, exams are not really authentic forms of assessment.”

ICMS is career-focused and works closely with industry to develop an industry-relevant curriculum. As well as the compulsory Work Integrated Learning (WIL) subjects that all degree students must complete, assessments give students an opportunity to develop skills and knowledge that would be used in their everyday lives. They have the chance to develop graduate capabilities that will be useful throughout their career. And of course, authentic real-world assessments also reduce the exam stress that memorising, and then relaying, large amounts of information creates.

We asked Mr. Hvaal to explain the rationale behind the ICMS focus on authentic assessment methods:

Is it true that hardly any of the undergraduate subjects have exams?

“Yes, it’s true. When ICMS courses were reaccredited, we removed the majority of exams from the assessment strategies in our programs”.

Why is ICMS moving away from exams?

“We believe that carefully designed, authentic assessment tasks can have a much greater positive impact on learning and the student experience”.

Is there any research that supports that?

“Much of the contemporary literature in assessment supports our approach. David Boud (2020) (1) says that assessment, “powerfully frames how students learn and what they achieve.”

If we have authentic assessments which apply tasks to real-world issues and problems in the context of what students might do in industry, it means the activities and content that students engage with in their subjects will be more meaningful and relevant and have a significant and positive influence on them.

With this in mind we have built assessments that are ‘for’ learning rather that ‘of’ learning; engaging students in productive learning where activities undertaken in the classroom and online are designed to build skills and knowledge in a coherent and structured way. We want to provide our students with opportunities to access feedback before they complete their assessment tasks, so there are fewer surprises and more chances of successfully achieving the subject’s learning outcomes.

To empower students further, almost all of our assessment tasks are assessed using  a marking rubric with criteria which are connected to the outcomes we want students to achieve by the end of the course. We make this visible to students so that they can understand what they are being assessed on and know how they can improve.

“We are equipping learners with skills in learning and assessing for life after graduation, for their personal development, contribution to society and of course to succeed in employment.” (Rawlusyk, 2018) (2) 

In contrast, exams are not really authentic forms of assessment. Being undertaken in an exam hall, under time constraints, they cause large amounts of stress and pressure for students. Despite this, we have not removed exams completely. In some subjects we have kept these more formal tests, especially where invigilated assessment is a requirement for an accrediting professional body, for example, CA and CPA in Accounting”.

What other types of assessment methods have been proven to be more effective than exams?

“Some examples of authentic assessment used at ICMS include:

  • oral presentations
  • interviews
  • journals
  • simulations
  • peer and self-assessment
  • small group work
  • problem-solving exercises
  • case studies

Rawlusyk (2018) says the “three authentic assessment methods that teachers use most frequently to generate a course grade are written papers, individual projects/presentations, and group projects/presentations.” These assessment types are also commonly used at ICMS.

Our assessment types are constantly evolving as we continuously improve, develop and integrate new pedagogical approaches into our curriculum which more appropriately match the needs and requirement of our stakeholders – the students, the disciplines, industry and our regulators”.


(1) Assessment 2020: Seven propositions for assessment reform in higher education, download pdf (4 pages).

(2) Assessment in Higher Education and Student Learning Dr. P.E. Rawlusyk download pdf