Though the start of second semester ought to bring about a sense of relief for the students of Marc Garneau CI, that was not the case for many Grade 12s. Stress levels are rising and late nights have become the norm for those hopeful graduates aiming to get into colleges and universities, especially the ones that take marks into serious consideration. As such, many have been left even more stressed and disappointed this January due to the tight exam schedule.

“I found it really stressful that we have exams back to back and that we do not get enough studying time in between. I know that if I were given a day or two between those exams, I could have performed better,” said Muhammad Farooqui, a senior student.

Mary Getachew, another student set to graduate this coming June, felt the same way. “This exam schedule took all the heavily application-based subjects and had them one after the other, from 27-29 January. For those with back to back exams, it became quite difficult to prepare well for all. Stress is natural, but piling on exams like that unnecessarily adds to it.”

When asked how she felt this affected her progress prior to the exams, Mary said, “Exams are supposed to be a reflection of how much we have learned, but by having back to back exams, it can be very unnerving. You may be a great student, but inadequate time for preparation could alter your final mark drastically. That is not an accurate reflection. If I had gotten more revision time in class with the teachers, I would have felt a lot more confident and prepared, especially since whole months had passed since the semester began.”

Though the exam schedule itself was taxing, some felt that the closeness of university application deadlines to exams added to the stress. “It’s quite ironic: if we don’t get our applications in on time and instead focus on our studies, we’ll do well but won’t get in, but if we focus on our applications and not enough on our studies, we’ll be registered, but there goes our chance at the scholarships we might have wanted. For some, this could be a deal-breaker,” stated Kristina Akhtari, another Grade 12 student.

When looking at the exam schedule, however, one must also keep in mind that exams hold different levels of significance for various students. Whereas there are students who are extremely rigorous in their studies, there are still others who give more importance to clubs and external events.

Nabeel Ahsen, Student Council President and senior student, had a different perspective. “I feel that as you progress through high school, you realize there’s a lot more expected of you. Sometimes you have two exams in a day, and feel like it isn’t fair – and I feel that’s subjective. As a student in Grade 12, I can only speak for myself when I say that marks don’t hold the same precedence for all students. There are those students who might not consider applying to university or college, and there are those who might not have such tight mark cut-offs.”

Despite their frustration with the rigid exam schedule, some seniors had several suggestions. Muhammad said, “Grade 12 students should have our exams more spread out so we can perform our best.  After all, this is the year that counts. As well, teachers should perhaps be here early on exam days so we can ask for help.”

“I think that teachers should try to teach all their lessons before the winter break, so there’s more time to revise after it. Also, exam schedules should be more complementary than contradictory. Perhaps the science and math exams should be placed closer to the weekends, but with decent gaps between them so as not to overwhelm students,” said Mary.

Exams for semester one however are now done and over with, and many hope for some changes in the exam schedule this coming June. The marks of senior students for the first semester will be sent to colleges and universities on 10 February 2014. To those twelfth graders who have applied or are applying to universities: good luck.