Opinion: Take-home exams don’t level the playing field — they decimate it

With the May exam season soon to be upon us, the usual sense of dread and foreboding is somewhat distant in the minds of most final year students, thanks to the much-anticipated prospect of being assessed via a ‘take home exam’ — the University’s response to social distancing measures, which have made sitting a conventional exam an impossibility.  

According to UWE, we will have 24 hours to complete the paper, which will be released via Blackboard at the time when the exam would have taken place.

One cannot help but question the integrity of such an exam, especially in subjects where answers are quantitative; with 24 hours to complete exams and with access to not only your lecture notes but Blackboard itself, will exams be easier this year? 

Unequivocally, the answer is yes. You could even create a WhatsApp group and work together on the questions if you so wish. Achieving 70% or over in your final year exam is now more easily attainable than in previous years.   

This, in combination with the University’s ‘no-detriment’ policy, which has previously been discussed by this publication, is rather fortuitous for those who did not put in the required effort and dedication to achieve the higher grades which warrant it. Allowing for a relatively free ride in comparison with previous final year students.

It seems in an effort to level the playing field, and to not disadvantage any student affected by the current public health crisis, UWE has completely decimated it. 

Many of my peers have asked our student representative to query the course leader about the accreditations of the unit, since it is clearly stated in the module specifications that the assessment is to take place as a handwritten exam in ‘controlled’ conditions, of which a ‘take home exam’ does not match that description. All this being said, the response from members of staff have been adamant that the extreme measures taken to allow us to complete this academic year will have no bearing on the accreditation of the unit.  

True, the university is stuck between a rock and a hard place, but to give everyone a cushion may do more harm than good. With the aftereffects of COVID-19 on British society still very much unknown, hopefully the class of 2020 will not be tarnished as the year that had it easy.

Joshua Giddings is a third year undergraduate Mechanical Engineering student.

Featured photo: Green Chameleon / Unsplash.

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