Don’t hate, mitigate: A list of Cambridge Easter term exam mitigation measures by department

The measures are in addition to the university’s existing mitigation measures


With the eruption of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has inevitably been disruption to our studies. The university, as well as many individual departments, have since released a package of mitigation measures in order to “safeguard student achievements from the impacts of pandemic” and ensure “student’s academic performance will be assessed fairly”, according to the university’s website.

These measures include cohort equality (meaning the proportion of different classes awarded will be broadly in line with that of previous years), automatic progression between Tripos Parts for students who complete all required assessments without academic misconduct, submitting impact statements about how Covid has impacted your study, coursework extensions and modifications, and individual exam warnings and allowances.

However, reading the wordy guidance from the university, and from your department, on top of that chunky bit of supo prep you forgot about? It’s a no from me. So The Tab has got you covered – here is the most thrilling article you will ever read, listing some of the exam mitigation measures that departments have released so far. Have fun kids.

Land Economy

The department will be making use of the university’s mitigation measures of cohort equality and automatic progression to the next year of Tripos for all first and second-year students. 

According to the department’s guidance, students “who consider that their performance in examinations or coursework has been adversely affected by the pandemic” are able to apply for exam warnings and exam allowances.

Students who feel they have been “adversely affected by health or other external factors, which include but are not restricted to Covid-19” can also contact their Tutor for advice on “the appropriate course of action.” 

Students may include impact statements when submitting dissertations and coursework, so examiners can take into account “how the lockdown has been detrimental to their research”, through, for example, limited access to research material, fieldwork opportunities or labs. 

Exams will be sat within 24-hour windows and will be open book, but “little or no credit” will be given “for simply reproducing lecture notes”. The Tripos Marking Conventions have been changed to reflect this.

The number of questions to be answered has increased from last year, returning to the number of questions given in previous years, and all year groups will be classed. 

This “return to the usual assessment pattern” has been done to ensure the “quality” of students’ qualifications is “equivalent to previous and future years”, allowing the department to show “employers and other academic institutions that the classifications for all Parts of the Tripos can be relied on.”

MMLL

For MMLL, all Triposes will be given cohort equity, except HML Parts 1B and II, as there is insufficient data from previous years to provide cohort equity for these Parts. There will also be automatic progression between Tripos Parts. 

Any remaining in-person examinations, such as Oral examinations, are being moved online and students will be given three working days to complete each scheduled paper. 

Notably, the number of questions or exercises to be attempted for each paper will be reduced by a third. Students are also being encouraged to aim for the lower end of word counts “if this is helpful” to them.  

Candidates can submit a “brief Covid statement” with their Part 1B Long Essay, or their Dissertation, if they “believe their work has been impeded by the pandemic.” 

Only the higher of the two Long Essay marks will be used to calculate a student’s overall class, but both marks will be recorded on the transcript. 

The Faculty has said they will exercise “flexibility” around dissertation titles and topics and a two-week extension for submitting dissertations has been given to Part II/IIB students. The safety net previously established for Part II remains in place.

History

Cohort equity and automatic progression for first and second year history students is being applied. For History and Politics, because this is a new subject and there is therefore no data from previous years, unlike HML, which has no cohort equity, HisPol will have “proxy mechanisms” in place in order to ensure cohort equity. 

Exam allowances will be available for students who believe “their performance in examinations or coursework has been adversely affected by the pandemic in acute and exceptional ways.”

Like many other departments, students can include an impact statement with dissertations and assessed essays to “detail how the pandemic and lockdown has negatively affected” their research. 14-day extensions on Dissertations or Long Essays can be applied for directly via the Faculty, and students “will not be expected to supply medical evidence” for this. 

Work written by students with Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD) will be flagged so examiners take account of this in marking, so they do “not penalise minor spelling or grammatical errors.”  

The weakest paper completed by each student, meaning whichever one impacts most unfavourably on classing, will be excluded from the calculation of the class for each student in Part I and Part II, but the mark will still be included on the student’s transcript. 

The only options the university has given for the length of exam windows is six or 24 hours and the History Faculty has opted for six hours. This decision has been made because some examinations will be scheduled on consecutive days, and the Faculty suggested that “two 24 hour exams in succession would be extremely stressful.” 

Economics

For economists, all exams will be timed, open book, online exams – although students may submit handwritten answers if desired – and the rubrics for certain papers have been adapted. 

Students have been given a normal, exam-hall length of time for each paper, with an additional 30 minutes for completing the exam, and another 30 minutes for uploading it, resulting in an exam window of four hours for most papers.

History of Art

The Department will be applying measures of cohort equity and automatic progression to the next year of study for first and second years who take all required assessments.

For Part I short dissertations, students normally pick a work of art or piece of architecture around Cambridge to study, but can now choose a subject to study from anywhere. The deadline to submit this choice of subject has been extended by two weeks. 

Normally, primary research, including first hand observation of objects and accessing certain archival material, is key to the dissertation mark scheme, but as this is not possible due to lockdown, “the assessment of [the] dissertations will take account of this.” The frequency of supervisions for these short dissertations has also been increased. 

Students are also allowed to submit a max 200 word “mitigation statement” outlining how their research has been “impacted by lockdown restrictions.”

Exams will be online, open book and completed in a twenty-four-hour window, which is considered by the University to be sufficient for accommodating those who require extra time. All exams will be considered “summative” rather than “formative”, as per pre-Covid arrangements, with each student receiving a mark but no feedback. All years will be classed and all marks placed on transcripts.

In Part I, the number of questions students will be expected to answer will be reduced by a third. In Part IIA and IIB, the number of questions students are required to answer remains the same as was advertised in December 2020.

Students are expected to sit the same number of papers. Word limits have been reduced since last year to reflect the greater number of questions students are required to answer.

Until and including 2018-19, images were given to candidates in exam papers unaccompanied by any information about the origins of the images. This information began to be included in the last academic year and has been continued into this year. 

The marking criteria has been rewritten in “clearer, more transparent language” and the rubrics for certain papers have been changed.

English

The English Faculty will be applying the university mitigation measures of cohort equity, impact statements and deadline extensions. 

All exams are “open-book open-web”, according to Faculty guidance, and each exam will have a twenty-four hour window for completion, a time period which the University considers as “accommodating of all students, including those who require extra time in ‘exam-hall’ exams.” 

For students who feel as if their preparation or performance has been very significantly affected by Covid or other circumstances, the Faculty are advising students to make use of the university’s individual mitigation measures, including examination warnings and exam allowances.  

A 350-word “impact statement” can also be submitted alongside any coursework element, using the Faculty’s impact statement form, “to detail any pandemic-related difficulties encountered during lockdown that have been detrimental to the preparation for this work, and to detail any alternative arrangements that were put in place.” 

The Faculty adds that students could use this statement to “include a brief summary of the work that [they] planned to complete, and details of how Covid-19 impacted on [their] ability to carry out this work”, for example, through limited access to research resources. 

Part I and Part II can apply for individual extensions of up to 14 days for submitting coursework. Part IA students submitting Shakespeare portfolios will not be able to apply for these “Covid-enabled individual extensions”, because such portfolios are intended to be completed “over the course of the Easter Term” as normal supervision work, does not affect students’ progression to second year, and late submissions would make classing difficult.  

All first and second year undergraduates who take all elements of their assessment will automatically progress to their next year of study, but if a student does not pass one or more of their exams, their “DoS and college will review with [them] what extra support might be given” to help them in their next year of study. All students will be classed and marks recorded on their university transcripts.

Upper word limits have been increased to “reduce anxiety over word-counts” and lectures are being made available on Moodle for longer than originally intended. 

Students are advised to check the rubrics of particular papers on the English Faculty Student Intranet, as certain rubrics have been adapted. 

Music

The Department of Music will be using the University mitigation measures of cohort equity, impact statements and automatic progression to the next year of study for first- and second year- undergraduates who take the full assessment. 

Students can obtain two-week extensions for coursework submissions and “no medical evidence is required” when applying for this. 

Due to the fact that some students will have had difficulty accessing research resources, substantial changes for dissertation titles and abstracts will be automatically permitted upon approval from the student’s DoS, and this will be allowed until 5pm on 19th March. 

Classification of degrees will be based on a student’s five best papers but all marks will be listed on transcripts. 

Course convenors have been advised to “streamlin[e] preparatory work for examinations” and in exams, students are “welcome to work to the lower end of word-limit ranges.” For notation-based coursework, “examiners will prioritise quality over rigid adherence to published time limits.” 

Geography

First and second year students will be allowed automatic progression to their next year of studies, cohort equity will be applied, and individual mitigations are available to students, all as per the University guidelines. 

As the content taught this year has had to be adapted to fit to the format of online learning, as well as access to resources being limited by the pandemic, the Department has assured students they “will not be tested on subject matter or skills” they have not been taught, and will not be “asked to refer to materials that you have not been able to access.” 

Students may request a 14-day extension for coursework or dissertation submission and they “will not be asked to provide medical evidence” when applying for such extensions. Longer extensions will be organised via individual Tutors, as normal. 

When submitting dissertations or coursework, students may include an impact statement “if lockdown has been detrimental” to their research, through, for example, limited access to resources, fieldwork opportunities or labs. 

For all exams, the time given for students to complete each essay in the exams has been extended to two hours, which is twice the amount of time available during ‘normal’ examinations. This has resulted in exams for this year which range from four hours to six hours in length. 

Students eligible for extra time will receive this on top of these time windows, and the time allocated for uploading and submitting responses will also be additional to these time windows. 

Exams will be unseen, online, timed and not open book. The Department explained this, saying that they “are not expecting [students] to access books, papers and the internet in order to answer the questions in the time available” but that students “can refer to [their] notes and other resources.”

Part IA students will not be classed, but Part IB students will, as the Department believes this is “important for [their] future plans, jobs [and] graduate programmes.” However, when classing, students’ worst two marks will be disregarded. 

Prelim to Part II students will be treated the same as Part IB students, except they will not be classed, which is no change from pre-Covid examinations. Part II students will be classed but their worst two marks will be disregarded when doing so. 

For Part II students who think they “will be unable to sit [their exams] in the prescribed four- or six-hour window”, they may be permitted to submit a portfolio of essays in lieu of an examination, which may also be accompanied by an oral examination. 

If students feel they have experienced “very significant disadvantage in [their] preparation for and participation in exams”, they are advised to discuss individual mitigation with their Tutor.

So there you have it! Now go on – smash those exams like we know you can. Show Covid who’s boss. 

If you have any information about exam mitigation for subjects not mentioned here, please get in touch and the article will be updated. 

Featured image credit: Author’s own image  

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