Students return to in-person exams after more than a year of virtual learning
On campus, students begin preparation for their exams, which will take place in person for the first time since spring 2020.
Courtesy of Amy Xiong
After a year of Zoom classes and virtual exams, Yale classes resumed offering in-person exams this fall.
With the start of October, students on campus are preparing for their fall semesters – for many, this is their first in-person exams in over a year. Throughout the 2020-21 school year, students took the tests in Zoom rooms instead of classrooms. Some professors have had to change exam formats to accommodate online testing, and others have gotten rid of exams altogether, moving to alternatives like final drafts. But in the coming weeks, students will return to traditional in-person testing.
â€œLast year MATH 120 didn’t even have a final, and we had a final project instead last fall,â€ math lecturer John Hall told News. â€œEven before this semester, we didn’t know what the policies would be. But now university policy allows in-person exams.
For most faculty, this fall’s exams will resemble the in-person experience students were used to before the pandemic – paper and pencil, large conference rooms, and supervisors walking the aisles. There will be a mask requirement for all exams, as The Yale Mask Mandate applies to all interior spaces on campus, but few further adjustments related to COVID-19 will be necessary, Hall said.
After a year of online testing, the return to in-person exams is a relief for some students. Erti Tushe ’22 explained that he prefers the in-person environment to his online counterpart.
â€œI appreciate the atmosphere more. I think I am able to concentrate a little more when there are people around me who are also taking the test, â€said Tushe. “After [years] taking standardized tests in class, I feel like I learned on my own to concentrate in this type of situation.
In-person exams can also minimize instances of academic dishonesty. Throughout the 2020-21 school year, a number of courses encountered difficulties in properly supervising students and preventing academic dishonesty.
a April 2021 survey taken by the News – with 336 undergraduate respondents – revealed that 50 percent of students who have committed academic dishonesty did so for the first time during virtual learning semesters. Additionally, the survey also found that roughly twice as many students reported committing academic dishonesty as the number in a similar survey conducted a year earlier.
â€œReviews overall were negative last year because we couldn’t really apply the surveillance,â€ Hall said. “[We] I felt like there was more academic dishonesty, but at the same time, there wasn’t much we could do about it.
The return to face-to-face exams also means that students in some cases have to prepare for a completely different type of exam.
Tushe, for example, told the News that with going through the in-person exams, he felt like he could be tested on less material than he was in the virtual exams.
“[Last year], we had a lot of take home exams, â€Tushe explained. â€œThese covered a lot more material because there was no time limit. With a two hour exam, there is only a limited number of concepts you can cover.
Academic Strategies Program Director Karin Gosselink said she encourages students to take the big picture and research key concepts as a guide for studying for in-person exams.
She explained that because the exams focus on material synthesis, students must have a solid understanding of key concepts to be successful.
â€œWhen you start to prepare, it’s essential to go back to the program and research the main themes and concepts,â€ Gosselink said. â€œStudents will be invited to take pieces of material and combine them [on exams], which means you need to know the concepts behind each problem.
In addition to having a preparation strategy, Gosselink also urged students to keep in mind the differences between the online testing environment and the in-person testing environment. In-person testing environments inherently have more distractions, such as moving people and occasional noises, Gosselink said. She suggests that Yale students accept that these distractions are happening and practice refocusing when necessary.
Nonetheless, as the stress of exam season increases, Gosselink said the Academic Strategies Program encourages all Yale students to keep exams in perspective as they study and prepare.
â€œGo ahead and do your best, but it’s not something that’s going to make or break you,â€ Gosselink said. â€œA test does not make a whole career.
The Academic Strategies program is hosting a workshop called â€œExam Study Strategiesâ€ on Thursday evenings from 7 to 9 pm.