Tab poll: What do you think exam arrangements should be next term?

Cast your vote – how would you like to be assessed?

In a University Statement on Monday (16th March), the Senior Pro-Vice Chancellor for Education, Prof. Graham Virgo, outlined contingency plans for teaching and exams if the University transitions from the ‘amber’ to ‘red’ phase in its approach to managing Covid-19. Let’s take a look at what’s going down as it stands.

The statement says “Faculties and departments are considering ways to allow examinations to be taken online as open book examinations, or by adopting other methods of assessment, which may include: extended essays, portfolio of essays, vivas through video-conferencing. We intend to use Moodle Assignment as the main platform for conducting online exams.” If I’m totally honest, I still can’t navigate Moodle properly, so I sincerely hope that’s not how we’re assessed.

All students are due to be informed of their Faculty or Department’s exam arrangements by 31 March. These are to be based on the following core principles: “To maintain academic rigour; to ensure fairness; to enable learning outcomes to be met; to ensure that the assessment process is as simple as possible and to respond to the specific needs of students, particularly disabled students.” Notice how “academic rigour” is the first thing to be listed…

With no definitive information on specific exam arrangements, students are concerned about how they will assessed next term.  Camfess has published a series of posts sharing students’ thoughts and feelings on the situation:

Students express their frustration and concerns over the prospect of ‘online’ exams

Many students share the sentiment of this particular Camfessor. We’ve been prepared for a very specific type of exams for months or years and is it really fair to have that shaken up at such short notice?

This post considers how some students will be particularly disadvantaged by online exams

This incredibly popular post recognises that not every student can find 3.5 hours of peace and quiet to sit at a desk and simulate an exam. This is one of the reasons Finn Cormican, Undergrad Rep for Arts and Humanities, wrote an open letter to University officials expressing his concerns for upcoming assessments.

An alternative perspective

Some students, however, would rather have an exam format as it benefits their career prospects. I love how shamelessly this Camfessor confesses their need for “validation”.

Throwback to the Kahoot theme tune

The odd student is really thinking outside of the box with this one. Do you top tripos if you’re the first to slay the ender dragon?

Amongst all this confusion and uncertainty, students have created a petition asking the University to allow students to choose their own particular exam arrangements, depending on their individual circumstances. It praises the English Faculty, who decided to lauch a survey for their finalists, offering them 4 options of assessment: Online exams, open-book essays written over a longer time frame, coursework portfolios or scrapping exams altogether, basing grades off earlier work. At the time of writing the petition has received 388 signatures.

So, what exam arrangements would you like to see for your degree?

Whether you’re a finalist, fresher or postgrad, how would you like to be assessed? Are online exams the only fair way as they’re the closest in format to the real thing? Do exams need to be scrapped altogether during a time when we have so many other concerns? Are you ambivalent and willing to take what you’re given as long as you pass your degree?

Have your say here: