Semesterisation takes its toll on BESS

BESS students have been warned that they will not be able to “rely on a nice timetable” for their upcoming exams, according to course director Francis O’Toole.
In an email on 1st March, O’Toole told students they are likely to be assigned “non-ideal timetables from your own perspective” for their end-of-year examinations, and suggested they may not be have much time to revise between individual exams. His parting words were: “You could be lucky, but…”
Dr. O’Toole attributed the timetabling difficulties to the need to schedule “many examinations in a relatively short period of time”. The process of semesterisation this academic year in particular has led to an increase in the number of examinations being taken, many classes sitting two exams for a given amount of coursework where previously they would only have sat one. 
O’Toole told BESS students that a crowded exam timetable would be inevitable due to “the serious constraints” on the course and Examinations offices. The Business and Economics departments were unavailable for comment on the nature of these constraints.
O’Toole told students there is “unfortunately nothing that I can do”, pointing out that the Course Office and Examinations Office are in a similar position.
BESS students are no stranger to problems with exam timetabling, as last year the Examinations Office ran into difficulty when a number of invigilators were on maternity leave during the busy summer period.
Even though the new timetabling means the examination period is a month long, running from 26th April to 26th May, Students’ Union Education Officer Ashley Cooke anticipates that courses with a large number of students will be concentrated in the first two weeks of that period. He explains this is partly due to the volume of correction required of these courses, citing BESS and Medicine as examples.
Cooke has also voiced concern about the availability of the Royal Dublin Society as a venue for annual examinations which will take place earlier than before due to the restructuring of the College year. Where previously Trinity exams had generally taken place after those of University College Dublin, exams set by both Universities are now likely to coincide with one another.
BESS, the course with the second highest number of undergraduates in Trinity, is one of the most prone to exam timetabling difficulties in a college with a growing student population. 236 students were accepted to BESS in 2009, twenty more than in 2008.
The current BESS timetabling problems may indicate the difficulty of examining increasing number of undergraduates, even though increased student numbers is a part of College’s Strategic Plan.
Meanwhile BESS students are likely to feel particularly injured. They are among the only students on campus to have exams during Reading Week as part of a programme of continuous assessment, starting in Michaelmas Term. A facebook group, entitled “petition to end BESS exams during reading week”, has 398 members.
Cooke anticipates that priority will be given to students taking exams which will count towards their grade, meaning Junior and Senior Sophisters are more likely to be given a more “palatable” timetable. The guidelines for exam administration set by the Undergraduate Students’ Committee emphasised that consecutive exams for final-year students should be avoided wherever possible.
“I can understand why students will be worried about the examination timetables,” said Cooke, mindful of timetabling problems last year when there was a shortage of invigilators. “I don’t think there should be any problems with exams which will count towards your degree. Final-year exams will be given special consideration”.
O’Toole ended his warning email by wishing students, “notwithstanding the negative tone of the above, best wishes for the exams”.