Back to Exams

After a welcome break for yesterday’s traditional Hallowe’en Bank Holiday it’s time today to embark on the tradition of the Writing of the First Semester Examinations. I have to come up with four papers (two main exams for January and two repeat exams for next August) by next week, complete with solutions. I always find it very difficult writing examinations, perhaps for the same reason that I find devising clues for crosswords much harder than solving the puzzles. In this world there are setters and solvers and I definitely count myself among the latter.

Anyway, it has been decided that the exams in January will be of the traditional type, sat in person in an Examination Hall, as opposed to the online version we have been using since May 2020. I feel I should point out that was the plan this time last year too, but it didn’t work out that way in the end because of climbing Covid-19 cases. I wouldn’t rule out an abrupt volte-face this year either. The situation is not looking good at all. In fact it looks very much like last year…

I think the “open-book” style of our online examinations had much to recommend it, with an emphasis on problem solving. The one flaw is that we can’t really do anything about collusion when students are sitting remotely and can exchange messages with each other in the absence of an invigilator. I never saw any evidence of significant collusion in the exams I graded, but there’s no denying it was a possibility that we couldn’t negate.

Interestingly, the student representatives present at our Department Meeting a couple of weeks ago indicated that their discussions with other students came out heavily in favour of on-campus examinations. As a result only one of our examinations – for an advanced postgraduate module with very few students taking it – will be of the online “open-book” style. The rest, including my own, will be written and marked on paper. That’s the plan, anyway…

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