Examining the Sem 1 Exam Stuff-Ups
By Rebecca Zhong
Final results are slowly being released over the next 24 hours. The wait may be more anxious for some than for others. A number of courses – from politics to engineering to law – have encountered exam problems. These included computer issues and concerns of “compromised” papers. The University has not responded to questions as to how it plans to prevent these issues in the future.
Students who sat the POLS1002 exam on 14 June received an email on 18 June, notifying them of the CASS Associate Dean’s decision to disallow the course’s final exam. According to the email, the Associate Dean had decided to disallow the exam and schedule a re-examination because the exam’s integrity had been “compromised”, as “some students sat the exam … on the basis of information not available to all students”.
The additional information related to a document which was given to students who attended optional revision tutorials held by James Frost, a tutor for the course. This document included a list of potential short and long answer questions and some sample responses. Some of these questions were ultimately included on the final examination. Observer is not suggesting that Frost intentionally included exam questions.
Student outcry in response to the announcement was seen in posts and comments on social media. Discussions on Facebook included a mass email drafted by students expressing disappointment at the Associate Dean’s ruling. One student involved in the writing of the email described the decision as a “knee jerk” response which “punishes students for no wrongdoing on their part.” Another student told Observer that while they were “inclined to believe that the material was excessively informative”, they “did not think [this] reflects poorly on the tutor”.
This decision was reversed the following day, after feedback from a number of students and consultation with student representatives for the course, and the ANUSA CASS representatives. The CASS Associate Dean confirmed on 20 June that the final decision was to exclude a number of short and long answer questions which were covered by the document in question. As a result, students will receive an exam grade out of 60, rather than 80. Students who did not answer the excluded questions will have their lowest-marked questions excluded.
ANUSA CASS Representatives Amelia Holly and Tian Xiao Shi told Observer that it was “heartening to see students actively reaching out and taking action” on their dissatisfaction with the initial decision to hold a re-examination. Holly and Shi said they believe CASS “dealt with the matter in a timely manner and to the best of its ability”.
ENGN2219 students were required to sit their final exam on ANU computers. However, a large proportion of students were affected by computer crashes, disrupting their exam. A Class Representative explained, “The number of students on the lab computers and on the same server caused a lot of the students’ computers to crash due to the amount of data sent to the ANU servers from VSCode.” Observer understands that around 80 to 90 students were affected by this issue.
Due to the disruption, students were given the choice between deferring their examination, or completing the exam. According to the Class Rep, students were only given five minutes to choose, and so a “large handful of students struggled to make a decision”.
Nevertheless, she said she believes that the course convenor and ANU administration had been “supportive” overall. Final exam marks were released on 18 June, and students were given the option of accepting their mark, or resitting the exam on 20 June, 24 June or the first week of Semester 2.
ANUSA CECS Representatives Tyrus Caldeira and Matilda Dowse told Observer, “the way in which the follow-up exams have been handled have not been in the interests of students from what [we] have heard anecdotally.” Caldeira and Dowse expressed concern that students “had minimal time to decide whether they should retake their exams”, given the short time between the initial exam and the re-sits. They also reported that some students who took the resits held last month found it “significantly more difficult” than the original exam. Caldeira and Dowse said that due to the tight turnaround, “not as much time might have been put into developing questions at a reasonable quality level”.
Caldeira and Dowse also told Observer that they believe “it is deeply important that this entire course is reviewed” as students had “consistently faced” issues. They said that a similar computer issue had occurred during the mid-semester exam, with only affected students being offered a re-sit.
In previous years, ENGN2219 was called ‘Computing for Engineering Simulation’, and the course had been reworked for 2019. Caldeira and Dowse had flagged at College Representative Council meetings the fact that many students were having issues with the new course.
A number of students who sat the Human Rights Law in Australia on 13 June received exam papers with the questions for the Property Law exam attached. This occurred before the Property Law exam, which was on 15 June. Observer understands that the Property Law papers were collected when the issue was noticed.
ANUSA College of Law Representatives Brigid Horneman-Wrenn and Kunal Vankadara told Observer they “understand the seriousness of this issue”, and intend to raise it with the College of Law Sub-Dean at their next meeting.
Students who wish to make an appeal can contact the Dean of Students, ANUSA, PARSA, or their College Reps for support and advice. More information on each step of the assessment appeals process is available here, through the ANU website.
Support is available:
ANU Counselling – (02) 6125 2442
ANU Crisis Student Support Line – Phone: 1300 050 327; Text: 0488 884 170
Lifeline – 13 11 14
Anthony Lotric did not contribute to any reporting, writing or editing of this article.
ANU did not respond to Observer’s repeated requests for comment.
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