Exam season is upon us and with it comes the usual flurry of anxieties, all-nighters and annoyance. The latter can stem from all kinds of sources at this emotionally charged time: your flatmate using your milk, the climactic political atmosphere, tripping a little bit on the pavement. However, one issue consistently contributes to the chaos of exam stress, year after year. Why are the exam dates released so late?
The University of Edinburgh official exam diet for 2018 was released on March 14 – little over a month and a half before the first exams take place. The December exam diet was even later. Although this may appear petulant and fault-finding, the impact of this on students cannot be understated.
A major impact on international students especially is the hikes in travel fares due to last minute bookings. Every day counts when planning a return trip home when the semester ends; contrary to myth, airlines never reduce their fares last minute. Even students from outside of Scotland face extortionate rail fares – many prices are up £15 and more between the week of exam diet release and the week before. Returning after May exams in particular can put strain on entire families’ plans for the summer, not just individual students.
This is undoubtedly a bigger problem for December exams, however. The added strain of Christmas and New Year leads to fare increases, getting worse the closer to the date of the 25. As the December exam diet ran up to the 23, planning flights in advance was a high risk. One student from Hungary, described her “heart stopping” as she realised her flight was booked for the same day of her last exam. Being more cautious the next year, waiting for the diet to be released led to another surge in prices. Having tried both options, she concluded that the only way to avoid both price and risk was for the exam diet to be released earlier.
Yet, price isn’t the only factor to consider. The exam period can be especially challenging for those who struggle with mental illness. Effective use of long term planning can help to alleviate these pressures; many find it a welcome coping mechanism to avoid becoming overwhelmed. The late exam diet release therefore contributes to these uniquely challenging situations.
This time of year is difficult for everyone. There is a lot going on. The time of year when the delicate tightrope of looking for next year’s accommodation, combined with the financial pressure of returning home and finishing the teaching block and final coursework (which continues into less than a month before the first exams) create a highly volatile environment for students. Anything that can be done to make this time easier, should be done.
Which is why campaigning for an earlier release of exam dates should be at the top of priority for the student body. The University of Exeter found that 96 per cent of students strongly agreed that an earlier timetable release would be helpful. University College London was successful in their 2016 campaign for an early timetable release, and succeeded in acquiring their timetable by February 29 – a whole month earlier than the previous year. By taking inspiration from other university and college initiatives, there is no reason our university cannot achieve the same.
Edinburgh prices are difficult enough for student budgets. Dealing with exam pressure is already tough for those dealing with mental illness. Delayed exam timetables are simply another needless stress that contributes to this trying period. With a little earlier notice and a little more planning, students could avoid a lot of unneeded stress at a time which can prove difficult to navigate.
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