Mollie Shiflett ’26 is an undecided major who will probably end up majoring in History. She plays on the Gold Women’s Club Soccer team for the College of William and Mary and is an avid fan of most sports, except golf. Email Mollie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed in the article are the author’s own.
Just recently, finals season was upon us. Now, for most of us, just the thought of finals fills us with dread. However, there are those of us that have had that dread compounded by one thing at the College of William and Mary: the 7-10 pm exam slot.
Now, I will admit to some form of freshman naivete when it comes to finals—their scheduling and other things—but I was extremely surprised to discover that my Intermediate Spanish final would be taking place from 7-10 on Monday night.
There are two extreme issues with the nighttime exam slot. One—and this may just be for those of us who aren’t very patient—waiting all day to take an exam is just the worst. There are those of you who would say, “Yeah, but at least you have more time to study.” That may be true, but what do you think I’m going to be doing while I’m studying? That’s right, panicking. Because what that will have done is make me realize that I am absolutely not prepared for the exam that I’m about to take, and then I can think about that all day. Alternatively, if studying is actually helpful, cramming all day will just make me tired, and then I won’t be able to focus come exam time. And, yes, an energy drink would resolve that, but then I would just crash in the middle of the exam. So, all of this leaves me back where I started. Spending all day dreading 7 pm.
The second issue, and perhaps the biggest, is the fact that, at 7 pm, we would all rather be doing something else. Now, maybe that thing would just be studying, or getting some homework done, but it most likely wouldn’t be taking an exam. Even the latest classes here, with the exception of some labs, end at about 6:30. There are those of us who are night owls, and so won’t be scared of the idea of an exam starting at 7 pm, but they probably won’t want to take it. A traditional school schedule, after all, which has been ingrained in all of us through secondary education, ends at about 4 pm, leaving our evenings to do with as we choose. I for one am a little bit resentful to have to miss out on other activities to go sit in a lecture hall and take an exam.
That probably makes me sound a little bit ungrateful, but it’s true. The reason the nighttime exam slot exists is almost certainly so that the College can schedule all exams in a small time slot. You know what, that’s admirable, but also a little unfair. That is for two reasons. Primarily, it gives you less time to study between exams, and, in the worst compounding of that issue, it can lead to double exam days. This semester, I have my Psych final from 2-5 pm on Monday, and then my 7-10 Spanish exam that same day. So I get the pleasure of stressing about two things for the exact same amount of time.
Now, to me, there seems to be a perfectly clear solution to this. Option A, extend finals week to give students more time to study—which I recognize would be unpopular for the sole reason that it keeps us all here longer.
Or, there’s Option B, which is to allow students to self-schedule their exams. This is the policy at other institutions such as Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts—disclaimer, my mom’s alma mater. In self-schedule exams, you’re given a period of time, normally about a week, where you can take your exam from anytime from 9 in the morning to 4:30 in the afternoon. Admittedly, Smith is a much smaller school than the College, but it would be interesting to see such a program implemented school wide to provide each student their best opportunity to succeed during finals.