FILE—Journalism students attend an in-person class on Sept. 22. (Photo by Josh Nikkolai S. Bravo/ The Varsitarian)

SEVERAL UST faculty members have noticed a decline in students’ test scores after conducting preliminary examinations face-to-face (F2F) for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic.

Students’ mean scores in exams held in person were about 20 percent lower than those held online, said Benjie Clemente, a UST Faculty of Pharmacy faculty member.

“There is a significant difference. I don’t know if it is on the students, but before, when exams were online, their mean scores ranged from 80-90 percent. Now that we are back to F2F examinations, their mean scores suddenly became lower than 70 percent,” Clemente told the Varsitarian.

Following a memorandum from the Office of the Vice Rector for Academic Affairs (OVRAA), which advised academic units to conduct “high stakes” assessments on campus whenever possible, the Faculty of Pharmacy conducted preliminary examinations on-site in early October.

Other units that held in-person exams during the same week, such as the Alfredo M. Velayo College of Accountancy and the College of Education, reported the same observation in their students’ test scores.

Victor Buendia, an instructor at the College of Accountancy, said the drop in scores might be because students had yet to be accustomed to F2F exams.

“Since this will be the first time that the students had the on-site exams in their college years, the sudden change evidently showed lower scores from their online quizzes,” Buendia told the Varsitarian.

Buendia cited other factors that might have led to lower scores, like waking up earlier for the F2F exams, not having someone to help during exams, and the inability to use online search engines.

Asst. Prof. Eryln Geronimo of the College of Education said students’ anxiety in pen and paper exams might have also contributed to the disparity in exam performance.

“[There is a difference in students’ performance] probably because the students have been used to online examinations for quite a long time, and there is also this feeling of anxiety on their part having to take an examination inside a classroom again using pen and paper,” Geronimo told the Varsitarian.

Amid the disparity in the results, teachers and students said they favored holding major examinations in person.

More reliable exams

Geronimo said conducting in-person examinations would increase the reliability of the tests since cheating would be minimized and the consistency of a student’s performance would be better evaluated.

Moreover, a student’s internet connection would no longer affect their performance if exams were held in person, she said. 

“This will also prepare them [for] ‘bigger’ examinations in the future, like when they take their board exam. In a way, this will also ensure their learning, enhance their test-taking strategies, and make them more confident,” Geronimo added.

The assistant professor said that in F2F exams, teachers could better monitor the students taking the examinations and be on hand to provide clarification.

Nathaniel Melican, a journalism instructor from the Faculty of Arts and Letters, shared the same sentiments about cheating, difficulties in relaying test instructions, and other exam concerns. 

“It took us forever to get through the test. A lot of students had questions, and it just needed so much troubleshooting that I really believe it would be better to do it together physically,” Melican told the Varsitarian.

Melican said exams were advantageous for students since they would be with their classmates who could provide emotional support after the tests.

“It makes so much of a difference after an exam—you’re able to unload and share sentiments with each other over food, for example. We used to do that back in college and during my master’s. Now that the world is opening up, these sorts of support groups will be much easier to maintain for students,” he said.

F2F exams with F2F classes

Given the need to hold in-person exams, Thomasians called for more F2F classes.

“I think it will be unfair on our end to have full major examinations if not all courses are requiring us to have face-to-face lectures and discussions as well,” journalism senior Kyla Barbosa told the Varsitarian.

According to pharmacy freshman Nash Sarmiento, medical technology requires students to be familiar with comprehensive examinations in preparation for the board exams.

“It would be better if face-to-face examinations were dovetailed with an increase in the frequency of onsite learning and laboratory classes,” he said.

The enriched virtual mode was set as  the default mode of instructionin all programs at the beginning of Academic Year 2022-2023, even as UST continued to expand limited face-to-face (F2F) classes to more programs. 

Before the prelims week, several academic units returned to campus for their limited F2F classes. Joanne Christine Ramos with reports from Hannah Joyce Andaya, Liam Sebastian Sanchez, Ammiel Maestrado, Kila Orozco, and Diana May Cabalo


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