‘I’ve hit rock bottom’: Soton students have their say on 24-hour exams
No, it’s not a dream solution
Normally during exams I am a bundle of stress and this semester is no different. Except that bundle of stress is currently a mountain that someone has built a wall around and set on fire. Not to be dramatic or anything.
This semester has been a tough one in itself and one article wouldn’t be enough to explain every reason why. But it certainly hasn’t been helped by the fact students are being constantly overlooked and made to carry on as if we weren’t in the middle of a pandemic.
Departments deal with assessments differently because they need to fit with the nature of the course etc. Some departments have easily switched to a coursework only approach. But some departments introduced 24-hour exams and I have three words to say: Not a fan.
Hear me out here. The fundamental idea of a 24-hour exam is, in itself, an ideal solution. You give students 24 hours to answer a two hour paper. Sounds like the dream, right? But what seems to have happened for a number of students is far from ideal.
‘The paper wasn’t designed to be two hours long’
I personally spent those two hours trying to work out what I was doing. It’s a new style of assessment, I get that. But I felt totally unprepared heading into this exam and I have no idea what else I could have done to help that.
Eloise, a second year Biology student, told the Soton Tab one of her exams was meant to take two hours at the most according to her lecturers but she “spent 20 hours on it and not because it was fun.”
This sentiment was echoed by a number of people on the Soton Tab Instagram that felt their lecturers had made papers too long for what was meant to take them two to three hours.
Max, a second year Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering student, told the Soton Tab: “it’s unfair how us students have to be awake and sat at our desks for over 15 hours to be able to perform tests that are way harder than anything we have done because of the poor quality lectures. Just because it’s open book doesn’t give them the excuse to make it way harder at all.”
The Soton Tab spoke to a university spokesperson who said, “The guide time given for completion of assessments should be adequate for students, provided they are well prepared.”
‘The lecturer told us they’d mark us harshly because we have 24 hours’
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought the idea of this style of assessment was to take into consideration the extraordinary circumstances we find ourselves in and not to mark us harshly for it. 24 hours doesn’t suddenly make it super easy for us to complete the exam, it means we’re being given allowances for having to do exams in pretty awful conditions.
It’s all well and good having lecturers encourage us to revise but scaring us is totally the wrong approach. A number of students told the Soton Tab their lecturers weren’t happy they had 24 hours for the exam and felt they were being unfairly judged on something we never even asked for.
One student said: “I don’t know of any job that would treat me like this, it’s so unfair. I’d happily have a two hour limit to the exam but I’m being treated as if it’s my fault we’ve got all day.”
The university spokesperson said: “Every major assessment we ask students to complete has a marking scheme scrutinised by an external examiner and approved by our Board of Examiners. Marking of assessments will follow these schemes to ensure the University is in line with national expectations for the standard of degree level study.”
So why do lecturers feel they have the right to scare us in this way during an already anxious time? One student told the Soton Tab: “My lecturer is the main reason I’m scared about these exams. To mark us down for something out of our control is wrong. I just feel absolutely hopeless.”
‘Students who need additional support for exams have been left to sort themselves out’
Eloise explained her exams are normally sat in a room with just her and an invigilator. This sort of environment “is not remotely the same” as being in your home.
“They just assumed. There was no point where anyone said (regardless of if you normally get extra support) if you’re struggling to have access to work space in that 24 hours, this is how we can help.”
It can be hard enough in normal times to strike a good work/home balance but it becomes nearly impossible when your room becomes your exam hall. The extra measures students have in place are there for a reason so it is unfair for the uni to decide that giving us 24-hours magically solves those issues.
The full comment from a university spokesperson to the Soton Tab is:
“Our students’ welfare is extremely important, particularly during this lockdown period, and we encourage anyone experiencing stress, or who has concerns about their own wellbeing or that of others, to contact Student Life who can help with a range of support.
“Every major assessment we ask students to complete has a marking scheme scrutinised by an external examiner and approved by our Boards of Examiners. Marking of assessments will follow these schemes to ensure the University is in line with national expectations for the standard of degree level study. The guide time given for completion of assessments should be adequate for students, provided they are well prepared. However, we urge any student who is experiencing difficulties to contact their personal academic tutor for support and advice.”