Image description: In the image on the left, a person holds a pencil in their hand and marks answers on an exam paper. On the right, a person is typing on a laptop.

 

By Courtney Withers

 

It’s rearing the end of semester, and we all know what that means: the mid-year break! No, not yet. The break is coming, but we all have to get through one thing first; exams.

 

After a weird and unusual situation this semester, with multiple changes and restrictions, it has come as no surprise that the usual exam layout has also changed.

 

UWA commented early in the stages of lockdown that they would be taking a different approach with exams this semester, stating they would be done in an online format, or through an alternative assessment.

 

The Guild has worked tirelessly over the past couple of months to ensure that the situation for students is not disruptive, and that educational impacts are taken into consideration with grades and GPAs.

 

The University acknowledged the concerns raised by The Guild surrounding the impact of online learning, and worked to reach a “fair and equitable solution”.*

 

On March 26, Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander confirmed that “assessments will differ between units, and options include using online exam software that contains specific features to maintain academic integrity, and other methods” would be used.

 

She also confirmed that there was funding spent on the online exam software system Examplify to ensure the appropriate academic, security, and privacy standards for exam-taking.

 

Students were informed that if they were completing online exams, they had to complete the mock exam by Thursday May 14, or they would receive a fail for their final exam grade.

 

Another way the University has ensured limited distractions for students and their marks has been through offering students who have passed units the ability to accept their grade, or accept an ungraded pass.

 

This means that if students were to receive marks lower than their weighted average mark (WAM), they could choose the ungraded pass option, and the grade for this unit would not go towards their average overall marks for the semester.

 

This has obviously relieved the stress of many students, but does not solve the exam situation for those in post-graduate studies.

 

UWA exams will run between June 6 and June 20, and are scheduled for no more than two hours, with an additional fifteen minutes allocated for the online transition.

 

The University has also stated that if anyone is unable to sit an exam on a scheduled day, due to time-zone differences or other reasons, they can apply for special consideration.

 

There’s no doubt that this new online setting for exams will be a difficult challenge for most, adapting to a new system in an already stressful time.

 

I spoke to Guild Education Council President Emma Mezger about this situation, and what the Guild are doing to ensure this period is as normal as possible.

 

“UWA Students are facing a unique and nerve-wracking end to their semester,” Emma said.

 

“The UWA Student Guild is working to ensure all online assessments are as close as possible to mimicking ‘on-campus’ conditions.

 

“We continue to fight to ensure all assessments are fair and are in-line with our academic policy.

 

“Looking into the future, we will continue to ensure the opt-out assessments are fair, and that no student suffers as a result of the changes to our learning conditions.”

 

I also gathered the perspectives of various students regarding the changes to exams, and how it would be impacting their studies.

 

UWA student Julia Schwab agreed that this was an unusual situation, with some students being impacted more than others.

 

“I don’t think it’s made exams more or less stressful for me personally, as I can submit my working out as part of the exam,” Julia said.

 

“However, I can see how if that’s not an option for some students, online exams could be more stressful, as they need to have the exact right answer.”

 

“I’m also lucky I have good internet connection and a quiet private place to take the exam — if I didn’t have that, I’d definitely be more stressed.”

 

UWA student Faisal Hamza also agreed that the change to the regular exam format will be an odd experience.

 

“Doing an exam in your bedroom with your pyjamas on feels a lot less serious than the usual physical exam experience,” Faisal said.

 

“Even though they’re worth the same thing, it makes the whole experience feel kind of inconsequential and surreal.”

 

Although the changes to UWA’s normal exam layout are quite different, and will certainly be a bit more tedious, I have no doubt that students can rise to the challenge and perform well.

 

To read more about exams at UWA, head to the FAQ page on the University’s website.*

 

* https://www.news.uwa.edu.au/2020032611959/december-2018/thursday-26-march-update-coronavirus-covid-19

 

* https://www.web.uwa.edu.au/novel-coronavirus/online-exam-faq#2-01

 

Courtney thinks that ‘Examplify’ is actually not a bad pun.

 

Pictures courtesy of Pixabay