Students experience anxiety, confusion with in-person exams


Cameron Krasucki

On November 2, 2020 Physics professor Peter Abbamonte reviews course materials before a future test on Nov. 2, 2020. Students talk about the difficulties for exams and quizzes with many courses transferring from online to in-person exams.

By Lily Dokhanchi, Assistant Longform Editor

Students are experiencing test anxiety after classes begin transitioning to in-person exams following almost two years of online learning.

When Kristin Tong, freshman in LAS, enrolled in CHEM 104: General Chemistry II, she was faced with in-person exams for the first time in years. Tong switched class sections around six weeks into the course and experienced different exam policies for each section.

In her first class section, exams and retakes were conducted through the Computer-Based Testing Facility. Her current section has online exams through PrairieLearn, and retakes were online and unproctored. 

According to Tong, she switched class sections due to the CBTF.

“On the first quiz when I had (Professor) Ray, I had the opportunity to do a retake, but I didn’t because of the CBTF,” Tong said. “I just couldn’t put myself through that again. I think it’s just the test environment.”

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Tong said her biostatistics class last semester held in-person exams, but students were allowed to use one notecard while taking the exam. She said this was helpful to transition back to in-person exams because over the past two years, notes and other resources were usually allowed during online exams.

“I go to the Chemistry Learning Center for help, but it mainly focuses on class content,” Tong said. “They haven’t really given advice or strategies on how to go back to taking in-person exams.”

Tong is also enrolled in IB 150: Organismal & Evolutionary Biology and said that exams are held in person in Foellinger Auditorium, lectures are completed online, and discussion sessions are run by teacher’s assistants in person once a week. She said she’s confused about how the class blends online and in-person learning.

“The things we cover in discussion don’t really relate to what we learn online: It all feels disconnected and doesn’t relate to the exams much,” Tong said. 

For Tong, the best solution would be to either keep all components of the class online or in-person rather than trying to do hybrid formats.

Zaria Giannotti Frye, freshman in AHS, had to adjust to in-person exams for IB 150 and CHEM 102. 

“Our last (chemistry) exam was held online, but now they are switching to in-person,” Giannotti Frye said. “They haven’t really sent out any information on where our exams will be or how they will be run.” 

Lectures for CHEM 102 are held online with an in-person discussion session run by a TA, according to Giannotti Frye. 

Although exams are moving in person, Giannotti Frye said there has been no discussion about whether lectures will also move online.

In her biology class, Giannotti Frye said the testing experience wasn’t initially ideal. 

“This was my first exam in a room with over 200 people,” Giannotti Frye said. “Personally, I am able to tune out distractions now, but it was a little bit distracting at first because I didn’t know how to strategize taking the exams.”

Giannotti Frye said study strategies that were given in her biology class are mainly related to the content of the class, memorization and writing essays — not specifically taking in-person exams. 

When asked how her online learning compares to in-person instruction, Giannotti Frye said she felt there was a disconnect between the online learning and in-person instruction — the level of difficulty of online practice exams is minimal compared to in-person tests. 

“During our review session for the exam, they gave general advice: stay focused, get good sleep and eat a good dinner,” Giannotti Frye said. “It was all basic stuff. They didn’t really acknowledge the transition from online learning back to in-person tests.”


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