You might have an offer already or you might be a lucky first-year student who doesn’t have January exams. In both cases, you might be interested to learn more about what exams are like in the UK, and at Exeter in particular. This blogpost is the first of a series of three ‘5 things you need to know…’ articles so stay tuned if you want to find out more about lectures and seminars in the UK and the mysterious Flexible Combined Honours course at Exeter.
How many exams do you have? How long do they last? What is the format of the exam? When do they take place? What do you have to bring to the exam? When do you get the results?
These are the most general questions I get from new students so I thought it might be useful to address them in a blogpost. I’ve gathered some useful information below so that you have an idea of what to expect during the exam period. However, these points tend to be more general and you might find that the requirements for your course differ in some aspects.
Essay writing: for Humanities, Social Sciences, many Business School modules as well as Geography and Psychology, this is the standard exam format. You have to write an essay within a limited time frame, usually one essay during one hour or two essays during two hours. Normally, there is a set of 3-8 questions, out of which you have to choose one or two. Of course, this essay doesn’t have to be as long as the one you’d write for your coursework but you’re required to follow a clear structure and have a clear argument nonetheless.
MCQ (multiple choice questions): you’re probably familiar with this type of assessment. You have to select the correct answer(s) out of several possibilities. This is most commonly used for Business School modules such as Economics, Finance and Accounting. Certain tasks could require you to do calculations, while others may measure your factual knowledge.
Short answers: you may be asked to provide two or three sentences long answers for a series of questions. This format aims to assess your factual knowledge and usually appears at exams in combination with the essay writing format. For example, you may be asked to answer three short questions and also write an essay about a topic within one hour.
‘Restricted note’ (‘open note’, ‘open book’): for a small number of modules, you are allowed to bring one or two pages of your handwritten notes to the exam.
Questions released: in a very few cases, the essay questions that you will have to answer at the exam may be released in advance so that you have time to research the topics that interests you and demonstrate an in-depth knowledge at the exam. However, in this case, you’re not likely to be allowed to bring your notes to the exam.
Don’t forget: for most modules, there are plenty of past exam papers available on ELE (Exeter Learning Environment), don’t hesitate to have a look at them when you revise!
There are two exam periods per year: one in January, right after the Christmas Break and one in May, after the Spring Break. Some lucky ones may only have May exams, while others have to sit both January and May exams. In addition, there are midterm exams (mostly for Business School and language modules) around week 5-7.
If you choose to take up additional language modules through FLC (Foreign Language Centre) you will have a mixture of written, oral and listening tests. Generally, you will have two written language exams, one during the final week of term 1 and another one during term 3. You should also have a listening test around week 7 in term 2 and an oral test at the end of term 2 or at the beginning of term 3.
The most important items to be brought to the exam are your Unicard and a pen (I’d suggest bringing two or three, in case any of them runs out of ink). Make sure that you also have all the things that you’re allowed to use, for example dictionaries, electronic calculators (these need to be approved before the exam) or notes. Mobile phones, smart watches, etc. are not permitted at your desk in the exam hall – you can find all the guidelines and information here. It’s worth reading through once to make sure that you know everything.
I find it a little annoying but you have to wait a whole month to get your exam results. Every student receives them via email throughout the same day, around the second week of February after January exams and in mid-June after May exams. Different Colleges hit the release button at different times on the day but everyone should have their results by 4pm the latest.