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January exams absolutely sucked throughout high school and sixth form. The Christmas holidays transformed from three weeks of blissful laziness to three weeks of stress and revision with a couple of days off for Christmas Eve through to Boxing Day. My first year at university then, came as a pleasant surprise when I found that January exams were suddenly unheard of. I was examined on my modules every five weeks, so I had finished well before the holidays hit. I enjoyed my first Christmas holidays for the first time in years. I had no stress, and actually was able to enjoy Christmas as I had as a child.
Now imagine how I feel upon my discovery that LUSU VP (Education) Ben Harper is planning on holding a referendum on whether the University should have January exams. My initial reaction is that this is a horrifically stupid idea that would send me straight back to GCSE and A-Level dread. Thank goodness students will actually be able to make their voice heard on the matter.
For some, this might sound like a cracking idea. Having to wait six months from the end of a module to then being examined on it isn’t ideal. Not only does it mean students could forget everything they’ve been taught, but there is also less to worry about come the summer exams, especially when dissertation deadlines loom. The argument is that having January exams means people can focus more time and effort on each exam, potentially achieving higher grades. On the other hand, having only summer exams gives you plenty of time to revise.
Bringing back January exams will not remove the stress of the ‘all or nothing’ exam. The stress to do well will be felt at both times of the year, since a high proportion of the marks for a certain module will be gained from the exams. Bringing January exams back will only exacerbate this stress, and could cause serious issues for certain students.
There is the argument that modular exams benefit certain subjects over others. Research has found that mathematics and science subjects benefit more from modular exams, with students attaining higher grades at the end than those who would have sat a linear course. However, those students doing English and humanities were more likely to achieve higher grades if they sat a linear course. The question is whether the University will take this into account if and when this referendum occurs? Will different students from different subjects have their voices heard correctly?
Personally, I am a little on the fence but definitely lean towards the ‘no-January exams’. Being able to enjoy my Christmas, for the first time in years was so enjoyable and I would not wish upon anyone having to revise in that time of year. Exams are stressful, no matter how much you have to revise and no matter what time of the year they are, so even if I was examined on half of my course come January, I would still be just as stressed. Why cause a shake-up, when people are used to something? Summer exams are a way of life for students in the UK. We are used to them, and as much as I hate revising, I would much rather get them all over and done with all at the same time.