I know spring break just ended, and I know we still have Dance Marathon, Detroit Partnership Day and Relay for Life between now and the end of the year, but it’s already time to start thinking about final exams. Yes, although six weeks full of better weather and exciting post-season basketball exists between us and the end of classes, final exams are going to be here sooner than we would like. A lucky few of us will have better exam schedules than the rest, but uniting us in those last days before summer is the knowledge that each of us has suffered through a particularly difficult two or three days of final exams, papers and projects at some point (or several points) in our time at the University. This can be frustrating because while we should expect our courses to be academically challenging, we should also enjoy an academic timeline that allows us all to finish our courses successfully. The University needs to better enforce a policy that demands faculty and staff to hold final exams during the regularly scheduled examination window and amend how non-final exams are administered in the last week of classes.
Toward the end of each semester, the University encourages faculty and staff to hold their final exams during each course’s regularly scheduled examination period. While I applaud the provost’s attempts to hold faculty to the exam schedule, the problem hasn’t been resolved — instructors aren’t moving their exams to when they are supposed to be held. As I have said in previous columns, we have great faculty and staff teaching excellent courses, but their course’s schedule can be altered to suit their own needs, with the cost of stressing out some students. This is problematic for a number of reasons.
Most notably, holding exams in the last week of classes doesn’t afford students as much time to prepare for their exams. The examination period following the last day of class is designed to provide students with adequate time to do so. With classes, student organization work, course registration, major events and other things occurring the last days of class, it can be difficult to find time to study for each exam outside the allotted exam period. Second, students who have in-class exams on the last day of their class may have multiple exams on that same day, further preventing them from performing their best to conclude each semester. This issue would be resolved if all exams were held during the scheduled period because exams are better spread out, and students can petition the University to move exams in the exceptional case a student has several on the same day.
Some undergraduates will disagree with this. International students and others with expensive travel costs probably enjoy completing their exams early to allow for longer breaks. Plane trips are pricey and exhausting, and the more time students can spend with their family and friends back home, the more their breaks are cost effective and enjoyable. Moreover, in-state and out-of-state students actually e-mail professors, requesting final exams be moved to lengthen their breaks or begin their summers early. Though I love having a few more days for Christmas shopping and time with family during winter break, I think all of us would prefer performing better on our finals, even if it means less time relaxing at home or vacationing elsewhere. So while I appreciate the logic behind front-loading exams, I implore students who enjoy taking finals early to recognize the benefits of taking them during the exam period.
Some instructors offer non-cumulative exams in the final week of class and contend that their exam need not be held in the final exam period. For those faculty and staff who are committed to holding these non-final exams in the last week of classes, students should be given the option to take the last exam either the day the instructor wishes to hold the exam or during the course’s scheduled final exam period. Giving students choices is always helpful, and providing two dates allows them to have better control of their academic calendars.
Ultimately, we need a policy that allows all students to achieve success in their courses. This means accommodating students who wish to be done a week early when possible, but more importantly, affording students crucially needed study time after an assuredly challenging semester. While some students may benefit from moving exams to the last day of class, all of us benefit from having enough time to fully prepare for each exam, revise each paper and complete each project. The University should ensure we have this time.
Jeff Wojcik is the LSA SG Academic Relations Officer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.