This year, instead of being dotted around London in weird conference rooms and dingy church basements, UCL’s summer exams were all held in one easily accessible location. Okay, it was two changes, one DLR and at least an hour away, but hey, I really hated getting lost before EVERY single exam last year, so the ExCel was fine by me.
This year’s exams have been marred by anonymous posters on UCLove who have been able to share and commiserate over errors in their exam papers. And boy, have there plenty of those.
One Engineering exam did not come with the promised and necessary formula book, while other exams had questions that academics had ensured them would not come up due to the strikes. In the most ridiculous case of all a Psychology exam was genuinely (and I mean literally) last year’s paper (though now I’m questioning whether this was actually part of the test??)
Whether there were really any more mistakes in this year’s exams than other years, it is hard to know. The significant difference between the way exams have been conducted to previous years, is the lack of lecturers and examiners present in the exam hall.
Traditionally a senior academic was made present for the first fifteen minutes of an exam, to ensure everything went smoothly. This year students were only left with the ominous Big Brother clock and smooth dulcet tones of a loudspeaker for comfort.
So, if any mistakes were found in a paper during an exam this year, invigilators would have to call the examiner responsible and ask them how to rectify it. What was wrong with the old system? Why not just have examiners in the exam hall like previous years? Lecturers and professors have told The Cheese Grater that senior management informed them they would not be needed in this year’s exams.
People involved in this decision making process have told us that this decision was made for fears that too many announcements in the hall would distract other exam-takers. This issue is unique to ExCel. While in previous years only a handful of exams would take place at any one time, in the ExCel more than a dozen can be going on simultaneously with more than a 1200 students at a time.
Nevertheless, mistakes in papers should be few and far between. Exam papers go through several checks before we see them as a student and even after they are printed, lecturers are given a final look over. If there are so few mistakes in our exams, is there much difference between a lecturer being available on the phone to a lecturer being present on the day?
Taking an exam is perhaps the most stressful thing we do as students. If UCL is to continue holding exams at the ExCel, already the most impersonal and intimidating of spaces, it would only better serve students, if they could put a friendly face to their exams and any questions they may have. Waiting for a mistake to be fixed over the phone like a terrible episode of “Deal or No Deal” only makes a bad situation worse.
The “too many distractions” argument does not really hold weight.