Preparing For an Arabic Language Exam From More Than One Perspective
Egypt's Arabic language exam sparked widespread controversy when they posted photos of multiple questions that the publishers had claimed were leaked exams on the internet, leading the proper authorities to step in. In one case, there were two different sets of exams, one for males and one for females. The question that caused the largest stir was a set of seemingly easy questions that required knowledge of English grammar. The exams, which are available for free online, asked such simple questions as: Is there a mountain or is it a river? What is the meaning of life? How does darkness come?
The reasons why the questions were placed on the exam were not explained, but the fact that the questions focused on common sense, and the general knowledge of a student, made them controversial. Many Egyptians took to the Internet to voice their opinions. Many compared the exam to a test of courage, comparing the student to a lion roaring its approval to the students in a cage. Others wrote on Arab social networking sites, calling for the cancellation of the exam, or using it as a way to justify violence against the Muslim Brotherhood and other groups that oppose the current government. Some students used social media to brag about the answers they got, posting links to the exam on Facebook, MySpace, and other platforms. Some called for those responsible for creating and posting the questions to be fired from their posts, or at the very least barred from future teaching positions.
The Interior Ministry announced that they would be cracking down on those who corrupted the Arabic language exam and would be reinforcing the teachers with training on how to handle their students. The new measures being taken are similar to those of a test of basic reading, writing, conversational, and oral Arabic. They are also seeking out those who fail the exam and use them as a stepping stone to teaching others who wish to take the exams. This seems like a rather unfortunate turn of events, considering that many of those who were failing the previous tests are those that will be helping future generations of Arabs to learn the language.
In an effort to quell the negative public feedback, the ministry announced that those taking the exam will be required to post a written Arabic language exam on a government-approved website. They will then receive points based on how well they compile the written exam. Those who post a poor performance will not receive any points, and may lose points from their scores. Users of social media will not be permitted to use the high school exams as a forum to air complaints.
The ministry found that there are a number of positive comments for this move. Students who are familiar with the writing format will find it easier to prepare for the exam, and those who failed will likely learn from their mistakes. The written exam is one format that was not featured in previous years, so teachers will need to train their students to write properly. Since there will be no longer a requirement for written Arabic language exam results, those wishing to study will have more options available. Language experts predict that the new exam format will be adopted across the Middle East.
The Arabic language exam will probably be available to high school students and their parents on a one-time basis. Students can study and pass the exam after their summer vacation, or at the beginning of the new academic year. Those who have studied will have a better understanding of how they will fare on this exam, and may be able to select which courses they wish to take to prepare for the exam. Those who fail may still be able to complete their internship, but this will be much harder because of the limited number of hours they can study.
Those who plan on studying Arabic on their own may be encouraged to review the curriculum vitae posted by the ministry on their site and use it as a model. The exams are likely to be similar to those from past years, so high school students can review previous year's work and begin to develop a timetable for completing the project. This is a very successful method for raising students' retention and comprehension levels. Since the material is not new, the test will also run more efficiently because high school students are familiar with the topics.
For those students who take the test on the weekend, preparation will consist of studying the material ahead of time, reviewing the possible questions on each section, memorizing answers to difficult questions, as well as seeking the support of their peers or other teachers. During the Saturday session, those who have prepared will be able to practice speaking the Arabic language exam and answering the difficult questions before the exam. Those who have failed earlier sessions will be able to study more on these topics and prepare for their second encounter.