As exam fever mounts, University of Cape Town (UCT) students are being encouraged to study hard and prepare for finals, as deferments will only be considered under exceptional circumstances.
The university’s stance, said UCT Registrar Royston Pillay, is similar to that of many universities, both nationally and internationally. He adds that while there are times when a deferred exam is warranted, it’s better for students if they stick to the regular schedule.
“Notwithstanding the stress associated with exams, we believe that students who take their exams according to the regular schedule tend to perform better academically,” he said.
“The focus on exams during the regular exam period is inevitably much higher than during the vacation period ahead of a later deferred exam cycle.”
The work is fresh in the student’s mind and so is easier to remember.
“It is very challenging to maintain a similar level of focus in preparation for a deferred exam. There is always the risk that exam preparation will be diluted because of the extended period between the end of the teaching cycle and the start of the deferred exams,” Pillay explained.
There are also fewer distractions during exam time, as students are all in the same boat and focused on preparing for and writing exams. Getting down to studying at home during the holidays is inevitably difficult with deferred exams looming.
You may also not have the resources you need at home, such as a quiet space, libraries and Internet access, all of which contributes to difficulty in focusing.
Edwina Brooks, director of Student Development, agreed, suggesting students should be proactive by putting in place study plans and strategies to prepare properly.
“You’d have to write exams in January, so you’d be spending your holidays trying to study while everyone else is having a break,” she cautioned.
Another reason for writing during the scheduled October/November period is that you will be unable to write a supplementary exam if you fail your deferred exam.
“The structure of the academic year and the associated annual calendar for the academic programme cannot be stretched to further accommodate supplementary exams on exams that have already been deferred,” Pillay explained.
A UCT student may defer an exam under the following exceptional circumstances:
Pillay encouraged students to prepare for the exams, seek assistance in preparation for dealing with stress, and make every effort to write their exams in the regular exam period. There’s still time to prepare and study, he urged, and students should speak to their faculty advisers, lecturers and tutors if they have any concerns about their courses or studies.
Associate Professor Debbie Kaminer, of the UCT Mental Health Task Team, said deferring an exam can sometimes heap on more pressure. Writing exams at the regular time, while stressful, has benefits.
“A certain level of stress is important, and can be helpful. It can help us focus, and motivate us to take action and address goals. By organising and planning ahead, we can make preparing for exams a normal part of our life at university,” she said.
The Student Wellness Services (SWS) will be available throughout the exams, with walk-in services on upper and lower campus, as well as at the Hiddingh and medical campuses.
If you’re feeling anxious, talk to someone – and do it sooner rather than later. Get medical advice from a professional. You can also make use of the UCT Student Careline 0800 24 25 26, or SMS 31393 for telephonic counselling. This service is available 24/7.
If you do need to defer an exam, please submit the required form as well as other accompanying documents in good time.
If you need advice about the Deferred Exam rules or process, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org, or inquire at the Student Records Office in Masingene, or call 021 650 3595.
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