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Undergraduates who have struggled through their first divisional examinations during the past week cannot have failed to notice one particularly pleasing feature of these tests. For, in all departments except the sciences, an extra fifteen minutes is given by way of a dividend at the beginning of the exams, a period when the papers can be read over with care and a plan of action formulated in the student's mind. At the end of this time the blue books are given out and no time is lost in beginning the three or four hour trek of pen over paper.
The advantages of this extra period are such that it is perhaps not out of keeping to ask why nothing has been done in this regard in mid-year and final examinations in courses. For the student the quarter hour is a blessing: he has time to read over the instructions, which are often highly complicated; he has time to make selections where choices are allowed him; he has leisure for brief jottings and outlines of his answers. Nor can this be criticized as leading to a "softening" of the standards, since its effect makes for more orderly and hence more valuable thought on the student's part. It is significant that History 1 has already taken this step.
Of course the fifteen minutes extra is not needed in certain subjects. In mathematics it would be absurd to hand out a paper without a blue book on which to start figuring; likewise in the scientific courses, in which calculations are made, is there little need for lengthening the hours of torture. But where essays, identification of passages, or discussions demanding the operation of the critical and artistic faculty are the order of the day, time for orderly planning is vitally needed.
Obviously nothing hasty should be done about this. The final examinations are already scheduled and cannot be changed. The factor of added expenses in proctoring must also be figured. By and large, however, the added fifteen minute period should be considered by the heads of the courses and departments with a view to determining its possible benefit in courses as well as divisional examinations. Next year some improvement could be effected, even though it is too late in the current season to benefit the Class of 1938. And the quarter hour can also be used by those who can find nothing better to do as an interim of pious prayer.
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