Listen, I know that once I’m done with university I’ll have to get to work early in the morning every day, but at this point in my life, there’s a lot of late nights of studying and doing homework. I know this is how I operate, and I choose my courses responsibly based on this: I’ve made it through two years at UFV without ever starting a class before 11:30 a.m., and I hope to keep it that way. But that system, which works great for me, is always shattered at final exam time, when my classes get 9:00 a.m. exam slots.
If a class is late in the day, odds are good that people attending it are comfortable working late in the day. So why schedule it for the morning? As someone with a decent commute to school, all this means is that when I sit down to do a tough exam, I’m half asleep, haven’t had time to read over my notes, and just want to get it done as quickly as I can.
Interestingly, the studies that have been done on the topic don’t seem to back up my personal experience. A Danish study from 2016 made headlines by reporting that students performed best on tests taken at 8:00 a.m., and their results decreased by 0.9 per cent for every hour later in the day, meaning that a morning exam at UFV should go a whole 9 per cent better than one at 7:00 p.m.
However, the study focuses on children aged 8-15 who are likely taking a full day of school that starts at 8:00 a.m. regardless of their exam schedule, whereas university students with an afternoon or evening exam are free to sleep late, and spend their day reviewing notes before the exam.
I’m sure there is some complicated wizardry that goes into deciding which classes write exams at which times, and I won’t pretend to know the details of that. But it seems to me that it should be feasible to favour scheduling exams at roughly the same time of day as the classes they go with.
Another solution that I think is worth considering is to adjust the structure of the final exam period. Why not run exams in the same room and at the same time as the class, effectively just adding one more week onto the schedule? Certainly there is a possibility for conflicts once you add online courses’ exams into the mix, but the same is true for midterms, and those usually run without any major hitches, and contingencies are already in place for students with conflicting schedules.
Waking up early sometimes is a part of life, and that’s fine. But, at an institution that largely gives students the ability to craft their own timetable and cater it to their needs and preferences, it just makes sense to continue to respect those choices during one of the most stressful parts of the semester. I can’t speak for anyone else, but when I have a 9:00 a.m. exam, I’m more stressed about waking up on time than I am about the material on the test.