Today at EPFL, there is no possibility to take an exam outside the established regular session, whether or not there is a medical reason. A student who is absent from a test must wait until the following year to take it. This poses a problem for many reasons and is often raised by representatives to the administration. There are also often issues from the student perspective regarding exam review sessions (not always having a grading scale or instructions, review sessions in Neuchâtel, etc.), as Article 15 of the Ordinance on Study Control, which deals with reviews, does not specify any rules. Therefore, we have decided to work on these two issues in collaboration with professors and the administration.
About deferred exams:
The difference between deferred exams and retake exams
This project targets people who could not attend an exam for medical (or alike) reasons, aiming to give them the opportunity to attend the exam in a reasonable time span. The project does not aim to let anyone who fails an exam retake it soon after their first try.
Initially, in Spring 2023, we have organized a working group with two professors through which we have gotten to know their constraints, talk about the student’s constraints and discuss with EPFL’s legal service. The first iteration of the project consists in suggesting deferred exam dates during or before February’s first week of classes for exams happening during the Winter session, and before September’s back-to-school for Summer exams. These deferred exams can be held in a format different from the initial exam’s.
Now, the project has some legal concerns to answer for: the principle of equality in opportunities is threatened by the perspective of doing a deferred exam. To be continued…
A new working group was launched this semester with more professors to address implementation issues that are more specific to each year and would arise from the introduction of deferred exams. This working group also aims to study the issue of exam review sessions to establish new rules to prevent abuse. The goal is to have the Conference of Section Directors vote on the two proposed projects (deferred exams and exam reviews) during the Spring semester.
The group has met twice up to now.
The first meeting focused on deferred exams. The need for the possibility of changing the exam format was emphasized by the teaching staff: they believe that preparing a written exam is a substantial workload, so a compromise was reached to allow for deferred oral exams instead of written ones. It remains to be verified if it is legally possible to change the format, as the legal service of EPFL has not yet clearly ruled on this matter. In addition, regarding the implementation of such deferred exams, the group found that separating the first year from the others would be judicious: in the first year, due to the number of cases involved (which is high), among other reasons, it is not desirable to conduct oral exams instead of written ones. Therefore, in addition to designing the exam, logistics would need to be established for deferred exams. Regarding the date of deferred exams, it was agreed that they should take place rather early after the initial exam, preferably just before or during the first week of the spring semester, for a deferred exam corresponding to a winter session exam. For the summer session, it would depend on the year.
The second meeting focused on exam review sessions. Overall, student concerns were raised: lack of instructions, grading scale, solution, sometimes off-campus review sessions, and hours that may not be convenient for students, etc. It is worth noting that access to all these documents is guaranteed at ETH Zurich, as per the relevant directive. The issues explicitly mentioned above were generally well-received by the professors in the working group. The discussion mainly revolved around two points:
- Sending copies by email and online consultation: this possibility will be discussed in the Faculty Conference (essentially the professors’ student association), and without technical support from the Student Affairs Committee (SAC) or other entities, it may be challenging.
- The utility of exam reviews: students generally review their copies for two reasons: to check and learn from their mistakes, and/or to verify the integrity of the correction. Regarding the second reason, at ETH Zurich, the presence of a member of the teaching or doctoral staff is mandatory to answer students’ “technical” questions, which is not the case at EPFL. The point is still debated within the working group. However, it has been observed that the deadline for submitting a request for a reassessment [link] can be extended to provide more flexibility in the date of reviews and ensure that there is a review before this deadline.
Project leaders 2022-2023: Philippine Milward, Alexia Giroud Nyer, Nicola Spoletini, Jan Jakub Frybes, Salim Najib
Project leaders 2023-2024: Alexia Giroud Nyer, Jan Jakub Frybes, Salim Najib