In May, I saw a popular Reddit post about the university’s examination policies on the U of T subreddit. The post brought up many of the challenges that students face when trying to view and request rechecks and rereads for their exams.
While students expressed their concerns and proposed potential solutions, I noticed that they didn’t propose steps that they could take to change these policies. This bothered me because it reminded me of my experience as an undergraduate student at this university.
One of my most frustrating experiences at university occurred during my third undergraduate year, when I was not provided with the exam questions during an exam viewing for STA302. Due to the nature of the course, I could not infer the questions from my solutions. The exam was also marked by assigning grades to each question without indicating where marks were deducted or the total amount of marks available.
Due to these limitations, there was no way for me to comply with the exam reread policy and “demonstrate that examination answers [were] substantially correct by citing specific instances of disagreement.”
This was highly unexpected because I had previously submitted remark requests for both the term test and assignment, the course’s only other assessments, which resulted in an increase in both marks. I was also able to increase my final mark for another course in the same department, STA347, during the same semester, when I was provided with the exam questions during the exam viewing.
I consulted the individuals supervising the viewing and was told that there was nothing they could do. After the viewing, I contacted the instructor and we met in person, but I was told that I would not be provided with the questions. Since I believed that there was nothing I could do at the time, I stopped pursuing the issue.
I was recently reminded of the importance of this issue as a teaching assistant for an introductory Computer Science course last semester, CSC165. I was told multiple times to be very careful when grading, as entry into Computer Science programs of study is very competitive and that this course is used to select students.
After seeing the Reddit post and realizing the consequences that a mistake in grading a single final exam could have on a student’s whole degree, I decided to contact the Faculty of Arts & Science (FAS).
I was put in contact with Christine Babikian, Associate Director of Scheduling & Examinations, who informed me that for exams written after April 2018, students will always be able to see the exam questions during exam viewings. I also learned that the FAS is already in the process of addressing many of the concerns that were presented in the Reddit post, such as shortening the reread and recheck process.
The most important thing that I learned was that the FAS, and the university overall, is very receptive to student feedback and use it to improve their processes. While my own efforts were too late, I now believe that students have the power to change this university by voicing their concerns to the administration.
Daniel Hidru is a first-year PhD student in the Department of Computer Science.