Exam chaos hits students

May 10, 1996

Students at two universities are complaining about last-minute rescheduling of exams which they fear could affect their chances of success.

At the University of Wales, Cardiff, they have called for an inquiry into "chaotic" rescheduling of the modular course exams which has left students with little time for revision and facing an overloaded programme of examination sittings. And final-year English undergraduates at Manchester say one of their toughest papers has been brought forward three weeks, making a mockery of their revision timetable.

In Cardiff some exams have been brought forward at short notice by as much as three weeks and some departments have left students with just one week of uninterrupted revision.

Timetables for the university's first round of modular exams which should have been published a week before the Easter break were not produced until after the vacation. When clashing exam dates were noticed by students and lecturers the programme was rejigged with "disastrous" results, according to the student union.

Simon Wright, the Cardiff union's education and welfare officer, said: "We do not know why these problems have occurred. All we know is that they present considerable problems for students who now find they have significantly less time to revise than they thought. We are calling for an inquiry and for the effects of this mix-up to be taken into account in the marking of exams."

Final-year music students at the university were told on April 30 that an exam scheduled for May 24 had been brought forward ten days, clashing with the time when many were due to complete their dis-sertations.

One music student commented: "There is no apology from registry for this chaos. We want the original timetable back - some students are in a hell of a state over this."

Law students have also complained about exams being rescheduled to take place after the end of term and two three-hour exams timetabled to be sat on the same day. Science students also reported exams being moved forward, one by 17 days.

A spokesman for the university said examination boards would look at the merits of individual cases when considering the impact of the disruption.

"Clearly there have been problems with examination timetabling this year which the university very much regrets. We will be looking very closely at our experiences this year to ensure there is no recurrence," he said.

In Manchester the knock-on effect of the timetable changes could be disastrous, according to student Robert Compton who has written complaining to the vice chancellor and to the Department for Education and Employment. Mr Compton said he feared his marks in the Shakespeare paper could be adversely affected and that all his fellow students had been placed under additional and unnecessary pressure.

"We all made our revision plans based on a timetable handed out before Easter," he said. "Although we knew the timetable was provisional at that stage no one expected changes of this magnitude.

Two or three days either way would have been acceptable but now we are told that this paper is being moved from June 6 to May 16 and it is the toughest of the lot. The chances are the exam is going to be even harder as a result and it could well affect my marks."

The intensive course covering 20 plays only began in January this year, said Mr Compton. "This is a difficult course which is 100 per cent exam assessed and worth one sixth of the year's work," he said. He spent much of the three-week Easter break concentrating on coursework, believing the Shakespeare revision was less of a priority.

Martin Harris, the vice chancellor, had been apologetic according to Mr Compton but he had stressed that the original exam timetable was only provisional.

A university spokesman said this week: "About 25 per cent of examination times change between the issue of the provisional timetable and the final version. The provisional timetable is designed to highlight potential problems such as clashing exam times. Students are made fully aware that the dates and times are likely to change and sometimes things can change quite dramatically."

Mr Compton said students wanted the permanent timetable issued before Easter for accurate revision schedules to be prepared.

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