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Why you shouldn’t stress about returning to in-person testing

It’s been a while since we’ve gone through it: that long walk to Minto Sports Complex, followed by the wave of anxiety that comes after seeing the rows of uncomfortable desks. And when you eventually walk into that cold arena, you found yourself wondering: is there anything worse than exam time?

In the last couple of years, online exams offered students a break from this in-person routine. However, as the university plans to go back to majority in-person learning this fall, the return to in-person exams is inevitable. 

For most students, this news might sound awful — but it doesn’t need to be!

For one, it means no more technical hardships. My anxiety over the last few online exams was less about the test content and more about whether or not my wifi would cut out mid-test — or if I could trust Brightspace to load my short answers without glitching and erasing my progress.

With in-person testing, we trade wifi and computers for trusty pens and pencils. Instead of stressing about our technology, we can just worry about appropriate student things — like whether or not that all-nighter was worth it.

In-person exams also signal the end of online proctoring. Good riddance, Respondus! The only thing worse than having someone pacing up and down your row is having someone constantly stare at you through their computer. Are they really making sure I’m not cheating? Are we sure they aren’t just silently judging my room? At least in-person exams offer some a reprieve from judgmental supervisors.

Technology aside, there are some real content benefits to in-person exams. Professors definitely understood that online exams allowed students to use their notes. Many of them seemed to pack their online exams with more questions than they would put on in-person tests to compensate for it. This in turn only aggravated an already stressful part of exam writing: time management.

While writing online exams, I found myself constantly unnerved by the timer on my test page. And when it eventually started blinking to signal the exam’s last five minutes, I was always tempted to throw my computer against the wall. Pair this tight timeframe with a packed exam, and you have a perfect recipe to make any stressed student’s mind go blank. Returning to in-person exams should help to settle some of that time-management-induced stress by giving students appropriate timeframes to complete less-dense exams.

The reality is that, either way, exams suck. But, that doesn’t mean we need to dread this necessary part of being a student.

Although it was nice to have notes and a computer handy while writing, it was unreasonable to expect that exams would stay virtual indefinitely. So come exam time, instead of longing for our notes and computers, let’s try to remember that online exams had their own drawbacks, too. 


  • Matthew is a fourth-year student studying philosophy and political science at the University of Ottawa. This is his first year as the Fulcrum’s Opinions Editor, and he looks forward to hearing opinions from all his fellow students.