After over a year and a half of COVID-19, Newcastle University is bringing back 'invigilated summative examinations'. Students are not pleased. Since we, the Stage 3 cohort, have taken 3/4 of our exams thus far online, we believe this format should be maintained this year.
There are good arguments to be made for the continuation of online exams. Stage 3 students have never had an in-person exam that actually counted towards our final mark. The only in-person exams we have experienced were the January exams in first year. Hence, the stress felt in the exam room will be far higher than in an ordinary year.
Stage 3 students also don't have any past papers from which to practice that accurately reflect exam content. The Chemistry curriculum changes every few years, making past Stage 3 in-person exam papers obsolete. At this juncture, lecturers haven't even provided students with copies of last year's remote exams. This situation puts us at a clear disadvantage.
In-person exams don't reflect the style of teaching this year, either. Large amounts of content are delivered online and there are no tutorials, so students are not being adequately prepared for in-person exams. The fact we have already adjusted our study strategies to suit online exams simply underlines this fact.
Overall, conditions are not conducive to high performance on in-person exams. As a result, Stage 3 Chemistry student Elizabeth Martin has written a letter on behalf of the cohort to DPD Nick Walker and other officials. Forty-nine students, including Martin and myself, signed in agreement. "We feel this has come rather late into the semester and certainly did not give rise to any feelings of stability or structure," Martin wrote. The letter explained the grievances above--among others--and cites the University of Leeds' May decision to keep online exams for the 2021-2022 academic year. I contacted lecturers with a similar letter to inform them of the situation, gauge department opinion and appeal for support in the overall discussion.
According to one of the letter's recipients, a detailed response will be provided to Martin and myself by 29 October. I have been requested to not quote the exact response received thus far.