Lancs students react to online exams

“It measures analysis which I believe is far more important than memory”

Lancaster University recently announced that the 2022 summer exams will only be conducted in person for a select number of departments and that for all other subjects the written exams will be hosted online.

This drew mixed reactions from students. Many believe that online exams are too much like a course and that those who thrive in a time-pressed exam environment are at a disadvantage. On the other hand, having the freedom to work on an exam that emphasizes technique versus memory is a comfort for quite a few students.

“Online exams are too much like classes”

One student told us he thought online exams worked best for those who did well in their classes. They said, “I think online exams are too much like classes, so favor people who are good at classes.” They then explained that they were “relatively better at exams”, so they felt like they would do better if the exams were held under timed conditions in a room.

“Online Exams Work to Benefit Essay-Based Subjects”

Another student explained that he thought the different exam scenarios would benefit students differently depending on their department. They explained that they “believe online exams work to the benefit of essay-based topics” because “you have more time to answer and have your notes open, you need to critically assess what to include as opposed to using your memory recall which will provide you with limited information.”

They went on to discuss the benefits of online exams and said, “It measures analysis which I think is far more important than memory.” The student went on to say that he thought “in-person exams could be more STEM/language focused” but that ultimately “there shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all approach” in matter of examination”.

“Understanding a subject is easier than memorizing it”

A third-year Biology with Psychology student explained that online exams can help students improve. They said: “Understanding a subject is easier than memorizing it and if you understand a subject well and write well, these online exams have the potential to significantly raise a person’s average”. They continued: “If your memory is bad, you are shot for it. Bearing in mind that we don’t have end-of-module tests or anything like that, so our final exams include 10 lessons from each module starting with the first module taken in October.”

They added, “A person taking biological science courses having more LEC modules with fewer biology modules would have the upper hand on where to focus,” but ultimately concluded that “if regulators decide that the online reviews are decent, so overall it’s definitely a great initiative.”

“Third year students have been through a lot”

A student contacted us and explained how third years in particular should be able to complete their degrees as simply as possible after Covid interfered with most of their time at university. They said, “Third year students have been through a lot and should be allowed to complete their studies in as easy a process as possible.”

They went on to explain their understanding of a third-year university student’s exam experience due to the Covid-19 pandemic. They said: “The first year exams (actually the practical exams) were canceled due to Covid, the second year exams were mainly online. Throwing third-years into disarray by forcing them to take in-person exams they didn’t experience in college seems not only unfair but oddly cruel.

“I was pleased with the recent announcement from the university”

Another student expressed a very similar opinion explaining that “after experiencing my very first online exams in first year and noticing how little they affected me emotionally and how efficient I was in my methods…I was satisfied with the university’s recent announcement that they would be taken online again, they prefaced this opinion by stating that “as someone who is easily overwhelmed and anxious, the chances of showing my full potential definitely increase if I am in the right environment, a quiet and safe space away from distractions”.

“In most careers, you won’t necessarily need to memorize every little detail”

Another Lancaster student told us that the online exams replicate workplace scenarios. They said, “I think in most careers you don’t necessarily need to memorize every little detail. As long as you have an understanding of the topics as a whole, being able to research things like key dates or names is representative of a workplace.

The student went on to explain that with certain subjects and particular professions, memorizing more of the syllabus is effective “unless you are studying law or medicine, where you absolutely have to know everything by heart, I think the exams online are the way to go!”

What was your reaction to the university’s announcement that most exams will be online? Do you benefit from having more time to think rather than relying on memory? Or are you someone who prefers in-person exams because you are not studying an essay-based subject?

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Jessica C. Bell