For students at the University of Connecticut, the dreaded second week of December marks the culmination of over three months of hard work. “Finals week,” as it is often called, serves as the last opportunity for students to make or break their grades. With such an important academic stretch nestled between Thanksgiving and Christmas, students must demonstrate superb concentration to succeed on all of their final exams.
A few weeks ago, I (like thousands of other UConn students) logged into my Student Admin account to check my final exam schedule. Sure enough, the three exams I must take are spread in quite a disorderly fashion. Though the locations in which my exams will be given are the same as their corresponding classes, I cannot help but feel frustrated about their timing.
After my classes conclude this week, I have nearly five days before my first exam on Wednesday evening. The other exams I must take are both on Friday: One in the morning and one in the afternoon. Additionally, I know several students with Saturday morning exams, and I am fairly sure they are not taking the SAT. The state of UConn’s final exam schedule is clearly discombobulated, which is why I propose that we treat finals week just like a normal week of classes and call upon professors and administrators to construct exam schedule better equipped to accommodate the needs of our busy lives.
Most obvious of all, this plan creates a degree of consistency. As I have stated, final exams present a formidable challenge to the well-being of university students. When we have been attending classes for over three months and following the same schedule every week, coming up with an entirely new arrangement seems like a bunch of red tape. Following a similar schedule from week to week should be a student’s habit at this point, and the unnecessary shuffling of exam schedules only leads to schedule conflicts.
One such schedule conflict is the principle of “bunched” final exams, which the UConn Dean of Students’ Office defines as either two simultaneous exams, three exams on the same day, three finals in consecutive time blocks or four finals over the course of two days.
The unfortunate students who end up with bunched exams must work out any schedule conflicts, thus making more unnecessary work for university administrators. But permitting students to change the time of their exams to reduce stress actually does them a long-term disservice. After college graduation, the pace of life will not slow down for working people. The only way to prepare students for the upcoming inconveniences of life is to allow them to construct their own schedule, a process students complete well before the beginning of any semester. If students take on too many challenging courses or become unhappy with the timing of their exams, they must understand that the only blame rests on themselves.
While consistent habitual schedules and a student’s individual freedom are both critical to final exam success, I have neglected the most obvious barrier to improving the schedule: The sheer length of exams. Most final exams are designed to take students well over an hour to complete, so the 50 and 75-minute time blocks of regular classes do not suffice. However, there is a way around this.
Instead of randomly creating two-hour blocks for exams throughout the week, longer exams should be split into multiple parts. For example, the professor of a class that normally runs on Tuesday and Thursday can create a two-part exam for students to complete within the time allotted. The same thing goes for Monday/Wednesday/Friday classes, for which professors have the ability to create three-part exams.
If implemented correctly, the splitting of final exams has great potential to reduce stress and increase performance. In the scenario I described above, say a student in a Monday/Wednesday/Friday class fails the first part of their exam. That student now has two more opportunities to raise their grade. Essentially, splitting final exams into multiple parts assures that a student’s grade is not made or broken on one day, all while avoiding schedule confusion.
No matter what students’ exam schedules look like, there will always be some degree of worry centered around finals week. But any university that wishes to commit to the performance of its students must consider making exam schedules a little more accessible by adopting the “splitting” format.
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Carson Swick is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.