Lancaster students entitled to extra time share opinions about online exams

‘I need that time just to function’

With the pandemic, universities have had to make do with many restrictions, and have therefore had to change up the exam format. All exams will now be online, and most of them will have a 23-hour window of completion, a format which is very different to the usual written exam that most students are used to. Many would say this is an advantage, but on the other hand, others may think the online exam format is a disadvantage especially if they would usually have extra time for exams.

Those who are entitled to extra time still have to follow the same exam rules as everyone else, therefore not receiving any additional support such as extra time on top of the 23-hour window. We reached out to Lancaster students who would usually be allowed extra time in their exams to see whether they feel disadvantaged by the online exam format.

The 24-hour exams ‘should be monitored a bit more’

Jen, a first-year Economics and Politics student, said that she “always had extra time” when taking exams and thought that some people who are eligible for it often don’t need it, and “boast that they finished early or didn’t need it at all”. In addition, even with proven eligibility for extra time, she has been accused of “cheating” and has been told that it “not fair” for her to have it.

She thinks it would be interesting to “see how people react” to having more time than usual, and believes it may lead people to “overthink their work or relax so much, in the end, they have to rush” since they’re not used to working in a long time frame. However, she makes the point that the university should “monitor a bit more” since it is can be a “disadvantage to both those who actually need it, and those who don’t”.

‘Extra time is not an advantage over other students’

Another student with an opinion on the subject is third year Cartmel College student Ben, who disagrees with the way in which exams are being handled this year. He said: “Extra time is not an advantage over other students, it levels the playing field” since it will enable him to “process information” and “understand the questions”. The 23-hour exams means he will be in the “same conditions as everyone else”, a factor which he believes will “tip the scales”.

He continued and said: “While this may not seem to have an impact because of the exam length, it causes unnecessary stress and anxiety during exams as students no longer have a set time to answer questions. Everyone has longer to plan, research and write answers which makes me feel like I have to use the full time to even stand a chance of competing.”

He also believes that due to the 23-hour exams and “alternative arrangements”, the government’s weighted grades initiative will more than likely cause an increase in the grade average. This is worrying for Ben because he believes that “because the extra-time comparative to neurotypical students that I am entitled to is gone, I will likely not increase my marks relative to the rest of the year group, meaning that my grade might be changed.” He said that he sees this as “unfair” and told us that it “genuinely upsets me.”.

He thinks that all students should be “treated as equally as possible, even if the standard exam adjustments are removed”.

‘It’s not about having extra time, it’s about having enough time’

First year Philosophy student Emma said: “It’s not about not having extra time, but rather it’s about having enough time in order to accommodate students who have certain disabilities”. She thinks that the 23-hour online exam will suit her accordingly, and therefore has not requested the “special arrangements” that are available to her, saying “the new format has rendered any alternative arrangements useless”.

She is unconcerned with the idea of other students sitting exams under the same conditions, and said: “All I need are arrangements that suit me, and it makes no difference whether everyone else has them or not.”

‘I need that extra time just to function’

Second year student Harry, from Furness college, said he “needs the extra time to function.”. He said: “It just feels like I am given the same amount of time as everyone else and expected to perform the same when just writing that essay is loads more taxing”. Harry also believes that most people will end up using more than the recommended time of three hours, therefore giving them the opportunity to perfect their essay, but that “extra time people don’t get that chance”.

First year Lonsdale College student Rebecca also made the point that usually she gets “50 per cent extra time” due to “various learning needs. It takes me longer to write down information/work out how to answer the question, etc.”, but with the new exam format, this aid is not available to her at all.

‘It’s fair for everyone’

Alternatively, third year Jake from Grizedale College said: “For me the purpose of extra time was to ensure that I can finish the question to a high standard as my learning difficulties made my process a little slower. I feel 23 hours instead of a three hour exam is plenty for everyone and is fair for everyone.”

‘I think the uni are making the right decision’

First year Advertising and Marketing student Sarah-Jane from Pendle College told us that she is classed with a mental-health related disability, which opens her up to alternative arrangements, one of which having breaks in the exam without the clock ticking down. She thinks that the university is “making the right decision to have exam circumstances and 23 hours is fair and should be long enough to complete the work”. But her concern about the new style of exams is that for “people who suffer with mental illness that exams can be triggering circumstances”.

She does mention that with the new summer exams, it may be harder to compose yourself to continue since the clock is constantly losing time. But all in all, she does think that 23 hours is “plenty of time” and will be able to compensate for the loss of extra-time.

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