One would have to (assume) that everyone is in earnest doing their best. The reality is there are lots of people who could care less about school! There's no way to measure their potential.
They don't bother to study or they skip classes. Oftentimes on multiple choice exams they may have marked answers without bothering to (read the questions) especially for "timed exams".
In other instances people have been known to cheat on exams.
However having said that there's only so many ways we could gage a person's knowledge along with their ability to be trained. It would require too much time and effort to create educational systems geared towards each person's way of grasping information. Also not all instructors/teachers are equal either.
I believe how well you do on an exam should not be the only criteria for judging people; however, it is a significant aspect of the holistic review of a person.
Talent is not something that can always be judged by exams. You might fail your next physics test because that is not what your talent is, but you could just as well win an art competition because that is what you are passionate about.
Therefore, when people apply to colleges they don't just look at your SAT score and your GPA, but they consider your other achievemnets aswell. Surely, SAT scores (exam scores in general) are an indicator for how much effort you put in, but it is also true that maybe that is just not how your talent can be judged. Exams can judge those skilled academically to a certain degree, but what about someone who is a talented dancer, singer or artist? For those people, exams donot bring their talents to light.
Yes, they reflect how well you can pass exams - and that's about all. If you check around you'll find some of the most talented and successful people, right across the whole spectra of human activity, did very poorly in their academic studies - especially when young.
The way to getting what you want is Lifelong Learning.
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