Although the announcement was made by the Students’ Union last year, the reality of Christmas exams did not become tangible until a few weeks ago when every student was greeted with an email welcoming us with semesterisation from next year onwards. The email was a bit vague about the whole thing, focusing more on the earlier start of college next year rather than what the implication of Christmas exams would mean — probably because this is unchartered territory for all of us.
Trinity is one of the few colleges that examine all modules at the end of the year, not just in Ireland, but across Europe and the US. Although there’s probably room for some symbolic spiel about the crumbling traditionalism of an increasingly secular middle-class student body, symbolism matters little to most students who are simply wondering the effect they will have on their studies. We’ve gathered a variety of students to give us their thoughts on the new format.
Anne Daly, SF Science:
My initial reaction to finding out we would have Christmas exams next year was honestly “what the hell” but now I am surprisingly happy about it. As much as I love watching my friends in other universities studying for Christmas exams while I am free to enjoy the merry festivities, I think it’s good that we will be having Christmas exams in the future. The current structure in which we only have summer examinations in my experience is unpleasant. It’s far too difficult to attempt to study modules from the previous semester for exams in summer, having not had lectures or tutorials for these modules in over four months. Last year I constantly had the weight of the first semester’s modules hanging over me, knowing that I should be revising them, when keeping up with second semester’s work was more than enough to be focused on. Having said all of this, I did manage to study everything for summer exams last year. But I believe the introduction of exams at Christmas will make studying much less stressful for all students by lessening the workload and pressure felt during the usual April/May cramming season.
Niamh Keating, SF TSM History and English Literature
I’m still unsure of Christmas exams honestly. The Christmas atmosphere will definitely have a bitter tinge to it as you look outside the library windows during the time where Dublin is most alive and bustling. It also must be said that Christmas is already a busy time for many TSM students, with most essay deadlines for the year being during the dreaded winter period. Adding the stress of exams to the mix will give the dark winter nights a more dreary effect. There is also a layer of frustration as we have all learned to study with the current system, and to go through the growing pains of change during the Sophister period will be an addition to the existing anxiety and worry. Though it is certainly pleasing that the three weeks of doom in April will no longer be as intense, I wonder if the pressure as a whole will be alleviated. Exams are still exams at the end of the day, and I wonder if the college needs to look at the idea of them more thoroughly and think of other options to measure a student’s learning.
Siona Molony, SF Law:
The introduction of Christmas exams is long overdue. All my friends in other colleges – particularly UCD – have always had them, and it’s always been one of these weird Trinity quirks that we wait until the end of the academic year. While it has made for great bragging rights and a less stressful run up to Christmas, in the long run, I think these changes are better for all students.
I only had five written exams last year, which were all done in the space of a week. However, I know people who had 10 or 11 exams, which often carried on for almost the whole month. It’s an incredibly pressuring few weeks. The stress involved will now hopefully be eased with the introduction of Christmas exams. They’ll also put an end to the bizarre practice of refresher lectures in March/April for material you haven’t seen since before Christmas.
I didn’t have a clue what to expect heading into the RDS for the first time last April. The only reason I even knew what building to go to was because I followed a random girl from the bus stop. Friends from other colleges were surprised by my complete confusion and terror, until I explained that these were the first set of college exams I had ever done. I think these changes will ease the transition from secondary school to college, and ultimately halve the amount of work students have to cram into a frantic couple of weeks.
Although I am not entirely opposed to semesterisation, I think the way in which Trinity plans to implement it is counterproductive at best. The same number of exams will be crammed into half the time, resulting in students being under far more pressure than they are under the current system — contrary to what the College hopes to achieve. Our study period will be halved, as will the exam period, meaning that we will have little time to study before exams begin and virtually none at all between individual exams. Moreover, in many courses, STEM in particular, modules are often interlinked, and Hilary Term modules can help clarify material covered in Michaelmas Term. At the end of the year, we have a better understanding of the first-term modules and perform better in exams than we would have in December. Overall, I think the introduction of semesterisation will cause more harm than good, particularly for the Sophister students who are already used to the current system. If the change is to be effective at all, it should only be implemented for the incoming Freshers, instead of confusing and disrupting those of us that have already grown accustomed to the status quo.