The education system is a big pile of rubbish
No, but seriously. How and why should exams determine how "intelligent" or good at a subject we are. Exams teach you nothing. Learning for exams is a process of peaking at the right time, short-term memory-wise, and then forgetting everything the day after the exam (or in some cases the moment you leave the hall). As someone with a pretty decent short-term memory, I benefit from this system rather nicely, but it is ridiculously flawed. I will leave this university after 3 years with a degree in physics, but with approximately the same amount of knowledge as I had at A level.
Now before this moves on to a rant about how I would never have applied for physics if I knew it was going to be mosty dry, seemingly abstract applied maths (oops, too late) let me pull back. This doesn't apply just to our course, it applies to everyone (at least, everyone doing science – not so sure about arts students). Whatever you are studying now, think back to what you were doing at A level. I can almost guarentee that you will be able to remember quite a lot of what you studied then, with a little thought and maybe a brief glance over your notes. Not so any more. A prime example of this is the Solid State Physics I exam we poor physicists took in April. Two weeks later whilst revising another module there was some overlap, but none of us (out of about 5 students, all good candidates for 2:1 or better) could remember a simple derivation we had learned by heart for the exam. Revision provides you with no long term knowledge.
So what would be better? What would make that piece of paper you receive at the end of it all worth more, or at least more representative of your ability? I would say that it is obvious – continuous assessment throughout the year – small assignments every week or two. It would encourage us to study more during the first two terms of the year, from which we could gain longer-lasting knowledge than that achieved by cramming the night before an exam. Sure, keep exams. It's a reasonable way to make sure that someone hasn't simply been leeching the work of his or her peers throughout the year, but I would suggest that they should be worth no more than 50% of every module.
Ok, so uni learning is supposed to be independent, but motivation can be hard to come by when you have no reason to work for most of the year. Give us that reason and we will become much more productive (well, most of us). We may moan about it at the time, but we'll be a lot better prepared when the exams roll around. In our first year we had a module called Physics Problems – 6 CATs (standard size phyiscs course), 100% assessed. Problem sheets were provided by every module and a certain number had to be completed each week to get the credit. Similarly, a portion of our maths module that year was obtained from problem questions. Why does that not continue throughout the degree? Why isn't it worth more?
The current education system basically teaches us one thing, providing we survive it – how to cope with the stress caused exams. It's that or go insane. Our degree certificates are symbolic not of our successful pursuit of knowledge or enlightenment, but rather of our ability to survive in a system centred around reducing us to burned out, twitching, and occasionally dribbling zombies once a year, every year, for the duration of our course.