TRADITIONAL exams that rely on essay writing don’t suit all pupils and should be given a revamp to make them fairer, according to an influential charity.

Members of Young Scot called for exams to be made longer to remove the pressure of time.

They also want the emphasis on final exams to be reduced with more assessment of pupils’ classroom work.

In recent years, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) has developed a raft of classroom-based assessments as part of the roll-out of a new secondary curriculum.

However, following concerns the units took up too much teaching time their influence has been downgraded.

The report by Young Scot, a national youth charity, comes after the SQA asked for its views on the future of the assessment system.

Their final report said: “Essay writing in timed conditions forms a large part of academic assessment, but it may not be fit for purpose and can have negative consequences for young people who are not suited to this form of assessment.

“Essay writing can be a useful skill, but is not the most appropriate assessment method for all subjects.

“Essays may not be successfully capturing a person’s written communication

ability, and having so many of them may disproportionately disadvantage candidates who are not good at communicating this way.”

The group called for more time to be allocated to exams to ensure candidates could work at their own speed.

“The timing allocated to complete exams can often be too short for what is being asked of candidates and can be a source of additional stress, with restrictive timings increasing the pressure on candidates and preventing young people from producing their best work,” the report said.

“Short exam timings can be more of a test of how fast you can write rather than how well you can formulate an argument, and although essays sometimes serve a useful purpose, exam conditions do not necessarily allow young people to demonstrate the skills that examiners are looking for.”

Young Scot also warned that pupils with poor handwriting would be disadvantaged and said all candidates should have the opportunity to use a keyboard.

Other recommendations focused on the importance of teaching pupils wider skills rather than a focus on passing exams.

The report concluded: “Life skills should be taught from practical lessons on stress management, interview practice, learning about taxation and healthy eating to more socio-emotional skills such as the ability to think on your feet, communicate well and speak up for yourself.

“Exams should be seen as the start of a journey rather than the end. This would be more similar to the experiences of people in the workplace where assessment is focussed on how individuals can learn from that point forward.”

Dr Janet Brown, chief executive of the SQA, said examiners would study the report, but did not give a commitment to reduce the frequency of essay writing.

She said: “It’s appropriate that we engage fully with young people and take on their views as they have a very significant stake in how qualifications and assessment need to change to reflect our future society and economy.

“Our qualifications and assessments are part of the life experience of all young people in Scotland, but this life experience is changing in ways that were difficult to predict only a few years ago, and will continue to change with consequences that we cannot yet foresee.”

Ms Brown said the SQA would develop a new approach to assessing competence in wider skills as a result of the report and would continue to consult with young people in future.

Louise Macdonald, chief executive of Young Scot, said: “We’re very pleased the SQA is taking on board the thoughts, feeling and experiences of young people from across Scotland on such an important issue.”