Opinion | 'Exam season’ is stressful, chaotic and benefits no-one. Why does it still exist?


Aidan Szabo-Hall, English, First Year

Three exam schedulers sit in a smoke-filled, dimly lit room, swamped with partially consumed takeaways, dozens of cups of instant coffee and thousands of post-it notes. They’ve been at it for hours, pondering one question: just how can we make the exam period more stressful for students?

I, like many others, have had multiple exams scheduled to take place across one three-day period. I’m not particularly looking forward to it.

Whilst realizing that something as seemingly trivial as an exam timetable doesn’t represent the most pressing of contemporary global issues – with a war, a deepening cost-of-living crisis and the total ineptitude of our current government probably ranking a bit higher – it does prompt a few questions.

The Arts and Social Sciences Library | Courtesy of: Epigram

Doesn’t lumping three exams across three days defeat the purpose of having a three-week assessment period? Could this not potentially exacerbate stress levels and consequently have a detrimental impact upon mental health? How can students achieve their academic potential if some are not given even a day between some of their exams?

Students have enough on already: a precarious balancing of university work and socialising, fears over paying extortionate rent prices, homesickness, worries about whether you are making enough new friends and unease about graduating into a covid-ravaged economy. And, of course, pressure to do well academically. Now write ten thousand words for me, please.

Everything that can be done, should be done to prevent exacerbating mental health issues

It is worth noting that not all assessments have been arranged in this clumped fashion, and that this will undoubtedly suit some students. For example, those who work well under pressure and to deadlines, preferring to get everything over in one go.

Also, the University states that assessments are meant to be completed within an ‘indicative’ window – usually four-to-six hours – as opposed to taking an entire day, or two… or three.

Courtesy of Epigram

Expecting students to spend four hours on an essay they are officially allotted three days for is a bit like expecting impartiality from someone marking their own piece of homework or telling an alcoholic not to be too over-zealous with a free bar.

The University prides itself on its reputation and demand for high academic standards – one reason why it has consistently ranked in the top ten of UK Universities. And any student studying at or applying to the University will be aware of the workload and expectations.

We should re-evaluate the idea of a crammed 'exam period'

But, in the wake of deteriorating mental health conditions both during and post-pandemic – with more than a third of first-year students who started University last autumn showing signs of depression – everything that can be done, should be done to prevent exacerbating mental health issues. Spacing out exams could ensure this.

Back-to-back exams only benefit the super-studiers of academia, those who live in a continuous state of colour-coordination and rigorous timetables. It’s not well suited to the more disorganized, stress-prone students, which seems to be most of us. If the University really cares about our wellbeing, it should re-evaluate the idea of a crammed ‘exam period’ – most of us would be better off for it.

Featured image: Unsplash | Wulan Sari

Do you think exam season should exist? How could it be reformed? Let us know your thoughts @EpigramOpinion !