The University has recently confirmed that multiple Preliminary Exams and Finals will be assessed as in-person, computer based exams in 2023/24. These include English, Classics, Biochemistry, Theology, and the MBA. Preliminary exams “across a number of subjects” and “several Social Sciences Division and Humanities MPhils” will also be typed.
For English, students were made aware of this decision in October 2023 ahead of the May 2024 exams cycle. This is a result of an English Faculty decision, the discussion of which started when the possibility of typed exams was raised in the JCC meeting in May 2023.
The University has stated that the decision to move exams online (in-person) has come “following a successful launch involving more than 6,000 exam sittings in 2022/23, the University has extended invigilated, typed exams to a wider range of subjects. The exams reflect the experience of most students who now type essays and other submissions, and also provide more legible scripts for assessors.”
Previous typed exam sittings involved 1,903 individual candidates and 22 exam boards, including Politics, Philosophy, Medicine and Geography (Preliminary exams).
The University has apologised that this information was not circulated earlier. While they have outlined that the exams will be invigilated “closed book” exams, and that students are able to book one-hour orientations to practice typed tests, current students are still raising concerns over the implementation of this new measure.
English Finalist from St Hugh’s College, Lucy Phillips, told Cherwell that the decision “just seems really poorly planned, as though we were an afterthought. They neglected to tell us something that will be potentially catastrophic for many students’ Finals experience. Whilst the faculty email only came out this week, many more ‘prestigious’ colleges found out from their tutors earlier in the term, which sets an unequal playing field ahead of exams.”
She added: “This decision also disproportionately impacts state school students such as myself who oftentimes have less developed touch typing skills than their peers.” In response, the University told Cherwell that students can apply for an exam adjustment if typing is difficult or impossible for them.
Phillips further reflected on the shift from traditionally handwritten to typed exams, stating: “I also worry about the preservation of handwriting as a craft – surely the Oxford English course … would want to maintain this historic practice?”
The English Faculty have been made aware of these concerns and have released FAQs for timed exams in English in hopes to reduce apprehension over the year.