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Exams do not test real ability

The US researchers are right to stress the benefits of competitive team sports in educational development ("School sport puts the 'A' in team, study finds", 31 May). Teamwork to a specified time schedule is important for students who are carrying out problem-solving and practical work.

Success in formal exams and tests is not, however, necessarily the same as real intellectual development. In my experience as a student and teacher, success in exams is sometimes about being able to guess the questions that are likely to come up, rather than overall knowledge of a subject or discipline. In the English-speaking world, there is a long tradition of learning outside school. Industrialists such as Josiah Wedgwood and Henry Ford had little formal schooling, yet both had a profound understanding of engineering and science, people and human institutions. I think that examinations are one method, but not the only one, for assessing people's practical and intellectual abilities.

Shouvik Datta, teacher of English as a foreign language, Kent.

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