Student Issues

Exams After Christmas: A Cruel and Unusual Form of Torture

Christmas is supposed to be a time of rest and relaxation for students after they finished up their first semester. Instead, for many, it’s a stressful time of missed study opportunities. Is holding exams after Christmas unfair? Should students be expected to sacrifice time with their family in order to study? Should we scrap exams entirely and just use continuous assessment?

I don’t think end of semester examinations should necessarily be scrapped. People can make the argument that examinations serve no purpose in “real life”, but the reality is if you are in university and doing an academic course, you’re going to be examined. I agree that continuous assessment should be more frequent and broken down more in some courses, especially in the likes of Arts. Instead of having one big essay on a single topic worth 40%, four mini essays worth 10% would alleviate some of the pressure on students.

Lucy Cheseldine for The Guardian studied abroad for a year in an American university which favours continuous assessment above all else. In the US, students have high contact hours and are expected to participate in discussion, debates, in-class tests, essays and quizzes. All of this is counted towards your mark for continuous assessment. She says that all of these became normalised and were “part of the learning experience,” as she puts it. So perhaps Irish colleges need to change their idea of CA.

Continuous assessment also poses some other problems. If a lecturer or tutor doesn’t get on with you or perhaps dislikes your writing style, this could negatively influence your CA grades. It is also worth remembering that some students can be overwhelmed by essays. They may find it difficult to break down the work, or some may do too much work for what the essay is worth. Other students might suffer from social anxiety and feel unable to give a presentation to a large group. Exams don’t present any of these issues.

I think no matter what your stance is on CA and exams, we can all agree that scheduling exams after Christmas is nonsensical. Exams should come directly after the completed semester. What is the sense in having exams a month after the material was learned? Not to mention the fact it kills the holiday vibe. Exams after Christmas might benefit the college staff as there’s no exams to correct or results to upload, but shouldn’t the focus be on the student’s learning experience?

However, those students who have exams after Christmas are not in as dire a predicament as Trinity college students. Trinity are not semesterised- meaning students can have seven or eight exams during the summer time, spanning material as far back as September. This is very reminiscent of the Leaving Certificate, a system which rewards stamina and the power of memory, not intelligence. Trinity announced last year that they are planning on bringing in Christmas exams and starting the academic year earlier, aligning them with most Irish colleges.

I think that the continuous assessment and exam divide should be split evenly 50/50. This would make it fair on everyone. Some people are built to withstand high-pressure situations like intensive study and exams. Those who are more meticulous are suited to working hard to perfect essays. By allocating the marks evenly, this gives everyone a chance to get good marks.

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