The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

SAWAYA: The University should rethink finals period

The current allocation of reading days during finals period is hugely inefficient and inequitable for students.

In both the fall and spring semester of the 2022-2023 academic school year, the University scheduled precisely one day between the end of classes and the start of the final examination period. Classes ended on a Tuesday, and on a Thursday at 9:00 am the first exam of the semester began. Over the course of the next eight days, two reading days were placed on the schedule — one on Sunday and another three days later, on a Wednesday. Finals did not occur on these two days to provide students with uninterrupted study time. However, these reading days are not as generous as they seem — one occurs on the weekend and the other occurs after the majority of finals are completed. The quantity of reading days over the course of the final examination period at the University is woefully inadequate and ineffectively distributed.

The “break” between the end of courses and the beginning of final examinations is not a break at all — it’s just a Wednesday. Having one designated day of studying before three consecutive days of final exams is entirely unreasonable. It implies that students must be preparing for exams almost entirely while the semester is still in session. This is an unrealistic expectation — students cannot be adequately preparing for exams while courses are still happening. While some preparation during the semester is manageable and expected, most students are still handling a full-time course schedule, and there is no guarantee that professors are reducing their workload to accommodate the University’s mediocre planning. In fact, as the end of the semester nears, many students are inundated with final research papers and projects in addition to the upcoming final exams.

The University itself has implicitly acknowledged that students require more than one day of planning in order to get through the entirety of the finals period, which is why the Registrar’s Office scheduled two reading days in addition to the one day at the end of classes — Sunday and the following Wednesday. Two more days of study is not efficient, especially when one is on the weekend — on Sunday of all days.

Moreover, a large number of exams occur before the reading days even take place. Of the seventeen exam blocks designated by the University, 41 percent occurred before the Sunday reading day in both Fall 2022 and Spring 2023. Similarly, of the 40 to 50 special exams which were scheduled for many introductory classes, 50 percent occurred before Sunday. Even worse, many students are not able to take advantage of the second reading day because their finals have already ended. In the spring of 2023, approximately 71 percent of all normal exams and 79 percent of all special exams occurred before the last reading day. These trends are on track to continue in Fall 2023. In the upcoming finals period, 86 percent of all special exams and 71 percent of all normal exam blocks will have concluded before the second reading day occurs. In short, the days which are supposed to be dedicated to studying have not been uniformly useful across the student body, nor will they be this semester. The distribution of reading days is not simply unproductive for students --- it is also inequitable in whom it provides with uninterrupted study time

The solution for the University is simple — it would be significantly better to schedule a minimum of three reading days at the end of courses and before finals exams begin. This would not preclude accommodating other break days, such as Sunday, throughout the finals period. It would simply ensure that each student has three uninterrupted days before the beginning of a strenuous finals period. How students use these three days is ultimately up to their discretion, but each would be able to take advantage of at least three days of uninterrupted studying.

Naima Sawaya is a Senior Associate opinion editor who writes about Academics for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at


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