Exam Time! Crunch Time!


I can’t believe how fast time moves. With a blink of an eye it’s already final exam week! Well, at least for some students. One of the more obvious difference between university in Sweden and in Hawaii (or America in general) is the exam-taking system.

Exams in Hawaii’s University

I’m not sure how schools in mainland America run their exams but the general idea is probably similar to ones in my state. In universities, students often take courses that run from beginning of the semester to the end. Usually, the class would meet 2-3 times each week with daily or weekly assignments pertaining to the topics discussed in class. A full-time student normally takes about four classes (or more) in one semester, all at the same time. Class lectures often follow the course textbook(s) in a sequential matter from chapter one to wherever the professor chooses to stop. Some professors may choose to jump around from one chapter to the next without a sequence however, the event that concludes every couple chapters is always the same: that is, exam. Students take the exam and are graded on a ten-point grading scale where a pass is usually 70% and above. When the course is in its final week, students prepare to take the final exam for the course. This exam often weighs more on the overall course grade than the regular chapter exams. Finally, the student’s grade is calculated based on how well they’ve completed class assignments and exams, that is their overall course grade.

Exams in Uppsala University

Near the start of each semester, university students will register for courses within their major/department. The duration of each course varies greatly, from two months to four months to a semester-long course. Each course is rated on how rigorous it is, the main ratings are 25%, 33%, 50%, 75%, and 100% capacity. Students are not recommended to take amount of courses that would exceed 100% capacity rating, but I’ve heard few students were able to get permission to exceed the limit. A full-time student takes 30 credits worth of class per semester but because each course also varies in credit, it could mean the student is taking one class for the entire semester (30 credit), or two classes (15 credits each), or four classes (7.5 credits each). The diagram below illustrates this system much better that I can explain in words.

Source from: https://www.uu.se/digitalAssets/282/c_282585-l_1-k_course-mapping.pdf

Most courses have required textbooks that are almost as pricey as the ones in America. Fortunately, all the courses that I’ve taken so far in Uppsala University, the textbooks are either provided by the teacher in a pdf file or they’re available online in the school library domain. Class lectures follow a similar format as ones in the States however, I haven’t taken enough courses to really confirm that point. But, the main difference starts here: there are no exams after every chapter. Often times, in science-related courses, there is only one exam and it is reserved for last week of class. It will cover everything that was taught in class from day one to the last. Students must sign-up to take the exam first to receive a personal code which is pretty much their identification number. Students are not allowed to write their name on the exam. In order to avoid bias during grading, each exam paper will have student’s personal code instead of their name so that everyone remain anonymous. The time limit for each subject’s exam varies but the standard is 5 hours long, usually from 8am to 1pm in the afternoon. Grading process can take up to several weeks and final grade will be posted online where students can log in with their account to see their final score. The grading system is not 10-point base like in USA but consists of G (Pass), VG (Pass with distinction), and U (Fail). They do not use the A, B, C, D, F grading system however, Grade-Point-Average (GPA) is still logged on a 4-point system.

Compare and Contrast

Personally, the most shocking thing about the whole examination process is how strictly regulated exam rooms are. A building the size of a storage house is reserved entirely for testing only. Before students can enter the exam room, we must lock away our phones in the entrance “lobby” area. Afterwards each student is admitted into the room one by one, show our ID card to verify our identity, and take a seat in our designated row. At our desk, nothing else is allowed besides our ID, writing utensils, key for our phone locker, and food. That was another culture shock for me, people brought food to the exam room! It’s understandable since the test runs from morning till afternoon but it was still shocking to see. I glanced around and saw a student who brought 4 different types of beverages, another student brought pizza in a lunchbox container, another student brought a whole garden of fruits, etc. These weren’t just tiny snack-mix you’d munch on just to fill your stomach temporarily, these were full on meals. Considering how measures have been taken against plagiarism and how heavily regulated the exam room is, I was shocked that eating was allowed.

I spent 3 hours and 50 minutes on my 17-pages long test and left the room with a huge load off my shoulders. It was a nerve-wrecking, heart-pounding situation that I’ll remember for a long time. I’m not too confident on how I did but the good news is that as long as I make the 50% mark, my test will be deemed as a G (Pass).

View of the exam room from the “lobby” area. The air was so tense and thick I couldn’t bring myself to take a proper picture…
The morning of exam day! Winter was already approaching so it was a cold and dark morning.