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From today (2nd March) until Friday (4th March), voting will be open on the question of ‘January exams’. I sat in on the Academic Council forum when they were discussing this issue, and I was quite surprised about just how much impact there would be if we were to implement an additional exam period.
It would not simply be a case of sticking some earlier exams into the current timetable but rather the whole academic timetable would need reconsidering and potentially rearranging. Currently, before our end-of-year exams, we get revision weeks in which to – well, to revise – without having to attend our regular lectures, etc. Fitting a revision period in for January exams could mean that we end up having two semesters for each academic year in place of the three-term system by which we currently abide. Or potentially, the year could start earlier…
If this seems a bit vague that’s because right now there does not seem to be a solid plan as to how the university would go about implementing January exams on a practical level. What would it mean for modules that are spread over the whole year? When would re-sits be taken? Would deadlines for coursework have to change, or would we still have to work to current deadlines on top of the exams?
Nothing concrete quite seems to have been worked out yet. If the university does decide to have a January exam period, the earliest it would be implemented would be for the year commencing October 2017. So if it is decided that the changes will be made, my guess is that might be a while before we know the full impact it will have. It’s likely that the majority of the students voting will have graduated before any changes happen.
Logistical nightmares aside, there also doesn’t seem to be a consensus on whether or not splitting the exam period will add any value to our learning experience. The side in favour of the change seem to be arguing that getting results back from January exams will give students the chance to see how they’re progressing and get feedback on their work. It would eliminate the ‘all or nothing’ feel of the end-of-year exams and would be an opportunity to make sure there’s nothing dramatically wrong with your exam technique. But the immediate counter-argument is that we already get feedback, primarily from end-of-module tests and coursework marks.
There’s also the fact that January exams would mean revision over the Christmas break, something which I’m going to assume will sound very unappealing to the vast majority of students. But it shouldn’t be overlooked that to a lot of people, the Christmas period can be a stressful time and the added pressure of coming straight back to sitting exams could cause additional problems. Earlier exams would likely have the largest effect on Freshers who would be left with less time to settle in, to adjust to uni life and to develop their exam technique. However, it’s also then possible to argue that this will be made up for by having less content to revise at the end of the year.
To me, it seems clear that neither side of this debate has an obviously stronger argument. Whether or not you agree is probably going to be down to individual differences in learning style. But agree or disagree, make sure to vote if you want to have your say.