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Unusual exam schedule planned

Katlynn Riely | Tuesday, December 4, 2007

For upperclassmen at Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s, the exam schedule at each semester’s end has been a constant – reading days Thursday through Sunday, and exams Monday through Friday.

This year, due to the late starting day for classes in August, there will be three reading days for Notre Dame, and two for Saint Mary’s. Exams for both schools will start Dec. 14, with testing on Friday and Saturday, then Monday through Wednesday.

“It’s an odd finish,” said Harold Pace, the University registrar.

The reason for the departure from the usual exam timetable dates back to the scheduling arrangements made in 1993, when Notre Dame’s Academic Council approved the Perpetual Academic Calendar, Pace said.

The rules of the calendar stated that the first class day in the fall semester would be on the fourth Tuesday in August, meaning dates ranging from Aug. 22 to Aug. 28.

Every few years, as in 2001, 2007 and 2012, the fourth Tuesday of the month falls on Aug. 28. The Academic Council realized, Pace said, that if adjustments were not made to the final exam schedule in those years, then the last day of exams would be Dec. 21 and grades would be due Dec. 24, the day before Christmas.

“We decided…that in those years, we would trim a study day off, and try to get started on exams early, so students could take their flights out before the 23rd,” Pace said.

The last day of classes at Notre Dame this year is Dec. 11, and students will take exams Dec. 14-15 and Dec. 17-19. Reading days, more commonly known as study days, will be Dec. 12-13 and Dec. 16.

Saint Mary’s students will follow the same exam schedule, although for Saint Mary’s, the last day of class is Dec. 12, a day later than at Notre Dame.

“The exam schedule is set by Notre Dame and we follow it,” said Lorraine Kitchner, the College’s registrar.

Kitchner said she has not personally heard any complaints about the changes.

“There may be some grumbling out there,” she said.

Pace said he has also not heard any complaints from students about the change to the normal final exam schedule, or to the reduction in the number of study days.

“I think everyone’s settled into the schedule nicely,” he said.

In the fall of 2001, the last time classes started on Aug. 28, causing exams to go until Dec. 19, Pace said he heard positive remarks about the exam timetable.

“We’ve had comments from faculty and upperclassmen saying that they kind of like the mixing of study days and final exams days,” he said.

Junior Brock Stoffel said he liked the typical Monday through Friday exam schedule better, but said it was OK to have the change for a semester. Stoffell has two exams on Friday, one on Saturday and one on Tuesday.

With a study day on Sunday and no exams on Monday, he said he can put studying for his Tuesday exam off until he finishes his other three tests.

Freshman Sandra Nazareth will be taking her first set of exams as a Notre Dame student in a week and so she didn’t know this exam schedule is slightly out of the ordinary.

Nazareth said she is not that worried about exams, but thought she preferred the exam schedule the way it is this year.

“If I had four days in a row to study for five tests, I think I’d feel a little overwhelmed,” she said.

The regular exam schedule, with four study days and then five continuous days of finals, will be used at the end of the spring semester. The split-up exam schedule in place this fall will not be repeated in 2012, the next time Aug. 28 is the fourth Tuesday of August, Pace said.

The Perpetual Academic Calendar rules were amended in March 2006, he said.

The rules for the fall semester calendar now state that the first day of class will always be the fourth Tuesday in August except when the fourth Tuesday is Aug. 28. In years where the fourth Tuesday is Aug. 28, the first class day will instead be the third Tuesday, Aug. 21.

“We’ll now begin the fall term on Aug. 21-27 to ensure that we won’t have this type of finish again,” Pace said. .

This change will ensure four grouped study days followed by five exam days on Monday through Friday.

But this year, students at both Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s will be taking their exams with fewer days dedicated to studying.

Notre Dame senior Lauren Gulley said she’d rather have the regular timetable.

“I’m used to the old schedule,” she said. “I kind of had my routine down.”

Gulley has three exams to take – one Friday, one Monday and one Tuesday. In past semesters, with four study days, she could spend the first night watching a movie or going out with her friends.

On Thursday and Friday of study days, exams seemed so far away, she said.

Now, with only two study days before her first exams, she foresees some “cramming because you can’t spread it out as much.”