Bring back revision week, we’re drowning

AStudyingMIDST all the festive cheer, food and presents you’ll receive this holiday season, one thing will be ebbing away at your happiness; exams. The bane of every students existence. The more we’re told to not panic, the more stress-filled hysteria can be seen around campus. I’m sure we’ve all been there, piled under mountains of books, sticky notes and mind maps over the Christmas holidays, whilst also trying to juggle family commitments and turkey.

Increasingly, we find that the time given to us to make sense of a semesters worth of modules is sprung upon us year after year; this being even more true for second and third years. Whilst some do manage to sift through the essay work and make perfect sense of reams of seminar work, the majority of us will find ‘making sense’ of things is put on the back burner for impending deadlines. Students are, not surprisingly, less able to juggle work – both mentally and physically – due to lower teaching standards, monetary concerns, family issues, stress and alienation from their course (there’s never really what we want to do on the module list). Collectively this results in students going into the Christmas holidays with only just beginning revision. Of course we should begin earlier, but the true argument lies in whether the university is doing all in their power to accommodate each and every one of us to ensure we achieve our full potential.

Last January, mother nature stood up for students as storms ravaged the seafront. Aberystwyth University relieved students by tweeting this:

By pushing the exams back, and effectively bringing back the untapped resource that is revision week, the university regained favour with many students. As many students have expressed, the Christmas holiday is simply not long enough.

As Dylan Griffin suggested;

“Some students need the Christmas break to earn much needed money to support themselves in university. A revision week allows them to do this instead of missing shifts at an already busy time of year.”

Calvin Biddle also said;

“A revision week gives everyone a chance to get back into uni life after the holiday we have. I think almost everyone I know thinks that a revision week would help us all enormously, whether that is revising for exams or working on assignments.”

Damage to the Promenade after two days of relentless high tides & storms - Photo James Vaughn

Bring back the storms for revision – Photo James Vaughn

At just under four weeks, the break between teaching ending and exams beginning seems adequate at first glance, however it is often forgotten that Christmas (one of the world’s most celebrated holidays) lands smack in the middle of this break. As a result of this holiday many students find themselves having little time to revise. Some students have family over, other travel to see family or even go abroad. And the variation in how holidays are spent is forgotten in the rush to get the new term underway. Lecturers surely spend their holidays in similar ways, yet some assignments won’t be marked until after Christmas so that they can enjoy the break. “That’s just the way it is” may be a common response to this issue but when so many other universities do it differently and are higher up, is Aberystwyth missing a very obvious trick? In essence there is less time for revision in reality than the university expects; bringing back revision week would allow those students who have had other commitments over the holidays to fully commit to revision.

Charlie Toombs expressed her feelings on revision week;

“Bringing back revision week would improve grades, which can only make the university look better.”

As 2014 has seen Aberystwyth University dive bombing down the league tables, improving appearances could be a good strategy to getting back up the ladder. With no known expense to the university, reinstating revision week would allow students to enjoy their Christmas holidays whilst maintaining a good cheer:revision ratio rather than Christmas nonchalance and pure blind last minute panic. It is especially troubling that a week break post-exams is given in the transition towards second semester. When many have finished exams in the first weeks of January, but do not start lectures until the end, the extra time in between is frustrating; why do we get a week to relax rather than something that will better our future? I’m paying nine thousand pounds a year to be given time off when I’ll probably celebrate exams being over well into semester two anyway. It makes little sense why the January – February period is timetabled like this, surely giving students the best possible shot at hitting the higher grades is in the university’s best interests?

It may have been the perfect rest in first year as exams were often timetabled later, giving more time for revision, however as the years fly by this issue is pressing. Although it may seem like a minute issue, to many students this would improve grades and allow a better understanding of topics – even producing better scholars. Additionally, the ‘relaxation’ week after exams may only increase stress with nothing to do but reflect upon the what if’s and forgotten facts that may have cost marks. Judging by the emphasis on de-stressing throughout exam periods and the National Stress Awareness Day held last on November 5th 2014 the university clearly wishes to reduce this problem among the student population. Revision week clearly reduces stress as students can relax over the holidays and still feel confident there is enough time to revise adequately for exams getting the mark they need. Simultaneously this could reduce stress in lecturers; not only do they get the extra time to spend with families when many commute and collectively cut this time down already, but they also have an easier transition period for finishing marking essays.

Notably, our rivals Bangor are ahead of the game and already offer their students a revision week before the beginning of January exams; theirs commence on the 12th January. Cardiff and Bath’s also begin on the 12th January. At a glance, it appears that the majority of the universities that offer privileges such as revision week are set to take top 30 spots (with the exception of Bangor) in the 2015 university league tables; Cardiff is set to take the 23rd spot, whilst Aberystwyth takes 87th. A variety of alternative strategies are adopted by different universities which ours could implement to give students a leg up for exams as extra to a pre-exam revision week implemented by our rival welsh universities. For example, Bath (8th) gives a week either side of exams to ensure maximum potential, in contrast Bristol’s (18th) first semester ends a week closer to Christmas so students stay under tuition longer; whilst the top-notch St. Andrew’s (4th) have exams before Christmas thus reducing stress and improving teaching quality.

110303-N-2055M-196One student, Magnus Eriksson, agreed with St.Andrews’ approach as it is also a model followed in his home country of Norway;

Term should start a month earlier, with examinations before Christmas. Everyone gets a nice break and a fresh start with new modules in January.”

Alas it appears no huge storm is to bring us any such luck going into the new year, but hopefully the university will look into their hearts and decide there’s no harm in bringing back revision week. It just makes sense.