Repeat Message..

Back to work after yesterday’s Bank Holiday and almost immediately it’s the repeat examination period at Maynooth University, which starts tomorrow. Technically these examinations are called supplemental assesssments, but we generally call them repeats.

My first supplemental assessment is tomorrow afternoon, actually. I have another on Thursday and three next week. All these papers are to be held online as has been the case for the past year and a bit. Perhaps the next set of examinations in January 2022 will be back to normal, but we have to wait and see about that.

The main purpose of writing this post was to wish all students taking exams this month the very best of luck!

I also thought it was worth mentioning for any university teachers out there reading this that although they are held at roughly the same time of year in the two countries there’s a difference in the way resits are handled in the institutions I’ve worked at in the United Kingdom and the way repeats work here in Maynooth which is implied by the slightly different name.

In UK institutions with which I am familiar students generally take resits when, because they have failed one or more examinations during the year,  they have not accumulated sufficient credits to proceed to the next year of their course. Passing the resit allows them to retrieve lost credit, but their mark is generally capped at a bare pass (usually 40%). That means the student gets the credit they need for their degree but their average (which determines whether they get 1st, 2nd or 3rd class Honours) is negatively affected.

This is the case unless a student has extenuating circumstances affecting the earlier examination, such as bad health or family emergency, in which case they take the resit as a `sit’, i.e. for the first time with an uncapped mark.

Here in Maynooth, repeat examinations are generally taken for the same reasons as in the UK but the mark obtained is not capped. Indeed, some students – though not many – elect to take the repeat examination even if they passed earlier in the summer, in order to increase their average mark. Because of the difficult circumstances this year the usual fees for a repeat examination are waived for Maynooth students this time, but I haven’t seen a noticeable increase in the number of students taking repeat papers.

When I’ve told former UK colleagues that our repeat examinations are not capped they generally  don’t  like the idea because they feel that it might lead to many students playing games, i.e. deliberately not taking exams in May with the intention of spreading some of their examination load into August. There’s not much sign of students actually doing that here, to be honest, for the reason that the results from the repeat examination period are not confirmed until early September so that students that deploy this strategy do not know whether they are going to be able to start their course until a couple of weeks before term. That could cause lots of problems securing accommodation, etc, so it doesn’t seem to me to be a good strategy.

I’d welcome comments for or against whether resits/repeats should be capped/uncapped and on what practice is adopted in your institution(s).

2 Responses to “Repeat Message..”

  1. Interesting. Here in UCC there is capping, though of course (as elsewhere) you can make a case for waiver of capping, e.g. if you were ill when you took the exam the first time. Is the Maynooth scheme a deliberate and reasoned policy, or just ‘the way we do things here’?

    • telescoper Says:

      The policy is outlined in our Marks and Standards document. This was overhauled in 2016, a bit before I arrived in Maynooth and I wasn’t involved in the discussions but was clearly a conscious decision not to cap repeats (or “supplemental assessments” as they are termed in the document).

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