Quiet periods make exam stress worse, official report says

Molly Moss 14 January 2018

An investigation into the sources of anxiety among Cambridge students taking final exams has warned that so called ‘quiet periods’ in Easter term may be a cause of stress for some students.

Quiet periods, in which college bars close early, visitors are banned from the grounds and noise restrictions are more stringently enforced, aim to provide a more peaceful and conducive environment to revision before critical summer exams. However the group, lead by Pro-Vice Chancellor for Education Prof Graham Virgo, who yesterday suggested grade inflation was caused by harder working students, noted that “changes to the college environment during the examination period can add to anxiety.”

The Examination Review Final Report, seen by The Mail on Sunday, is the culmination of a two year review into traditional three hour Cambridge exams. The report noted a 50% jump in the 2015-16 number of students receiving ‘alternative arrangements’ for exams, which vary from sitting exams in college to receiving extra time and rest breaks. Some members of the review group were suspicious of students ‘working the system’ to receive concessions on exam arrangements. 

The report also noted that undergraduates consider exam room unfamiliarity to be a major factor inducing exam stress, leading to the recommendation that exam hall pictures are viewable online. Some photos were already made available for last years easter examinations, a measure set to be expanded on.

Despite the huge rise in students seeking alternative arrangements, the review did approve of college initiatives to reduce stress, which include mindfulness classes and puppy therapy sessions. Speaking to The Mail on Sunday a Cambridge spokesperson said that the university provided: “a comprehensive range of services to help students cope with exam stress.”

Some have criticised the university for pandering to so called ‘snowflake students.’ Chris McGovern, chairman of right wing pressure group Campaign for Real Education, said: “Students need to toughen up. Exams are rightly tough and, with a few exceptions, snowflake students shouldn’t be at university if they can’t cope.”