No resits? More stress
Last week’s article in the UK where four educational experts at the RUG argued for the abolishment of endless resits elicited quite a few responses. The experts say the exams should be planned at the most inopportune times. Some people even argue they should be done away with altogether, which the Erasmus University in Rotterdam did.
Scheduling a second chance before the first one has passed is asking for trouble, they say. ‘It leads to students getting way too strategic about their exams. They figure that if at first they don’t succeed, they’ll just take the test again.’ Students are using the ‘real’ exams to explore the requirements, they say. ‘They have a quick look to see what they’re expected to know, but they’re really too late with that.’
Even the Dutch name, which translates to ‘another chance’, is wrong. After all, the system isn’t about chance. ‘It makes it sound like it’s a lottery. But it’s just an opportunity to show what you can do and how much you know.’ Moreover, anyone who falls behind will have a lot of trouble making up the difference. It would be a better idea to test students more often and to offer them opportunities to compensate for bad grades, and to make resits as unappealing as possible.
Is it true that students are ‘abusing’ the resits? Do they really think ‘if at once you don’t succeed, try again?’ How often have they taken resits over the course of the past year? Are they indeed using exams to scope out what is being asked of them? And do they think it’s a good idea to discourage students from banking on resits?
The UK asked 450 students (more than 60 percent of whom were first- or second-year students) about their experience with an attitude to resits, at two exam locations (Martiniplaza and the Aletta Jacobs hall).
Is it true that students tend to start studying too late, increasing their risk of having to take a resit? It turns out that almost 30 percent of them hit the books early on in the semester. But almost the same amount of students (more than 30 percent) do wait until the very last moment to start studying.
Almost half of students (46.5 percent) hasn’t had to take a resit in the past twelve months. That means that 53.5 percent did have to. Most of them pass the resit, but more than 16 percent of students have to take an exam three or more times.
Students disagree with the criticism that they use exams to explore the course’s requirements. Seven out of ten students say they never do this. Approximately ten percent do this regularly.
Students say the oft-used threat of study delays as a result of failed exams is an exaggeration. Approximately 60 percent pass their resits. But a potentially alarming three out of ten students do get in trouble, suffering lasting delays.
Then the main question: should resits be discouraged by scheduling them at unusual times, such as at night, on the weekends, or even during holidays? A fair number of students (27.1 percent) don’t think the idea is too outlandish.
The argument they bring up most often is that the increase in pressure will force students to start studying earlier and take exams more seriously. Also: many students are abusing the resit system, which isn’t fair to students who do try their best. One pragmatic argument is that it’s a good idea if it improves the results.
Nevertheless, almost three out of four students are against the measure. ‘It would only cause more stress, and the pressure to perform high enough already’, many of them argue. Or: an exam is just a snapshot. Failure happens. Quite a few students argue that they shouldn’t be punished for unforeseen circumstances, such as illness, accidents, or blackouts.