With the final exams period beginning next week, starting with Reading Day on Dec. 5 and exams beginning on Dec. 6, students and professors are abuzz preparing for upcoming final assessments. However, in the Office of the Registrar, plans for final exams, specifically the final examination schedule, began long before the start of this semester.
Assistant Registrar for Academic Scheduling Vince Pellegrini is responsible for making the final exam schedule. In April 2018, after students completed course registration, Pellegrini began working on his first draft of the schedule. “I usually have about three or four drafts constructed within about the next month [following registration] to try and locate the best scenario—which causes the least amount of conflicts,” Pellegrini said.
In the summer, incoming first-year students register for courses, which Pellegrini says makes the job “tricky” because he then has to revise or discard his previous drafts. “I may have my heart set on two drafts, but after seeing which classes they choose, I generally have to go back and scrap some of my initial draft(s),” Pellegrini said.
Once the semester begins, Pellegrini waits until the end of the add/drop period, and then reassesses his drafts to make any necessary changes. “Within a week after the drop/add has commenced, I usually am able to post the exam schedule online. Due to changes which could be made during drop/add, I wait to make sure that I have a schedule which best fits the students,” Pellegrini said.
In regards to his process and the considerations made when formulating drafts of the final exam schedule, Pellegrini weighs a number of factors. One of his considerations is past history. “I take a look at the different programs and try and find a correlation between which courses a student in a specific program may have taken and which other courses they are likely to take,” Pellegrini said. “I try to set up the schedule so a certain time slot is not in the same block as they were the year prior (or semester prior). Sometimes this doesn’t work, but it’s something that I try and avoid.”
Another significant factor for Pellegrini is minimizing the number of conflicting exams. “When registration has been completed … I take a look at the programs I have at my disposal (mainly through Cognos) to see if there are a number of students who may have two exams within the same time block … and many students may have three exams within 24 hours,” Pellegrini said. Additionally, Pellegrini also remarked that he tries to avoid first-year students having back-to-back exams.
Logistics and classroom space play a role as well. “Another aspect that I must consider is having enough classrooms to house the exams. Some time blocks may have a number of exams which could have 50-plus students taking a test. In those cases, those exams would generally need a much larger space than a 50-seat mini-lecture hall to stretch out and to give [students] enough room” Pellegrini said.
Additionally, Pellegrini also tries to accommodate the needs and requests of individual academic departments when making the schedule. “I also receive requests from different departments who may have a request to utilize a exam block for certain courses. Sometimes I can assist them without any problem. Other times, it’s a bit of a struggle” Pellegrini said.
“I do try to move around the courses which are in the [same] time blocks; however, it is more of a random process dependent upon the least amount of conflicts among students schedules,” Pellegrini said.
While Pellegrini works hard to create a system most beneficial to all with minimal conflicts, some conflict is inevitable. “It doesn’t always work out for everyone, as we have conflicting exams and students who may have three exams within 24 hours each semester,” Pellegrini said. However, the University works diligently with these students who have conflicts. Students who have conflicting exams or three exams within a 24 hour period are able to move one exam to a different time slot.
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