Salem College Students Enjoy Autonomy through Self-Scheduled Exams

December 18, 2014
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For more than forty years, Salem College students have enjoyed the ability to self-schedule final exams at the end of each semester. 

“Self-scheduled exams are a long-honored Salem tradition,” says Susan Calovini, Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs and Dean of the College. “I’ve spoken to several alumnae from the 1970s who fondly remember the feeling of freedom that came when they were first allowed to schedule their own exams.”

The privilege to self-schedule exams outside of the classroom is granted through the Honor Code, a guideline of expectations that hold all members of the Salem College community accountable for their actions inside and outside of the classroom. The Honor Code is signed by each incoming class at a ceremony that takes place at the beginning of the academic year.  

The majority of colleges and universities employ a set exam schedule, with rules in place to govern how many exams are scheduled per day, as well as how students may request special accommodations. Salem's system, however, grants students autonomy to create a schedule that best reflects their academic goals and study preferences.

“Many of my friends at other universities have to go to class on a certain day to take their final exams. Because students at Salem have the privilege of self-scheduled exams, it allows us to better plan for exams that may require extra studying,” comments Fareena Bacchus, Senior Class President and Exam Co-Chair.

Not only do Salem students set their own schedules, but the exam period is entirely student-run as well. Students volunteer as proctors during the five-day exam period. Each day offers three exam sessions. Ahead of the exam period, professors bring exams to the testing location. Students then bring their identification cards and request the exam they intend to complete during that session. Sessions are uniform in time, and completed exams must be submitted to a proctor before the session ends.

Salem's self-scheduled exams are popular with students, because they can work at their own pace. The system also suits faculty members, because they can collect completed exams throughout the exam period, instead of waiting until the last day to receive every exam to grade.

“Schools with a set exam schedule face frequent complaints from students and faculty whose exams are set at the end of the exam period,” reports Richard Vinson, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies. “Students often want to take their exams early, so that they can wrap up their semester, and faculty often do not enjoy the speedy turnaround that is necessary for evaluating final grades.”

“The ability to self-schedule exams sets Salem College apart from most institutions and is important because it allows for students to exert more control over their education.” says Audrey Colonnese, Exam Co-Chair. “The system of self-scheduled exams would not be possible without Salem's Honor Code and students' commitment to honesty and integrity.”