Students call for quicker turnaround on exams

University policy requires instructors to grade and return exams promptly.

by Tyler Gieseke


For Jillian Johnson, it’s important to get tests back in a timely way — it helps her judge how well her studying is working and whether she needs to change her strategy.

Although she has had instructors who return tests within the same week, she said some have taken nearly three weeks, which is “frustrating.”

“I don’t really see any urgency from [some instructors],” she said.

Despite a University policy that requires instructors to grade exams “with sufficient promptness to enhance the learning experience,” students say timeliness varies widely with each instructor. No specific enforcement procedures are outlined in the policy.

Besides timely evaluation of coursework, instructors must also “promptly return examinations or permit students to review their exams,” according to the policy.

Instructors are also required to submit grades three days after the last day of finals.

Physiology junior Taysha Clark said she thinks instructors are consistent in reviewing exams in case students have questions, but timeliness in returning exams varies depending on the class.

For example, she said tests taken on a multiple-choice answer sheet, like Scantron, sometimes take a week or two to be returned, although a machine can grade the tests quickly.

She also said instructors might announce a return date for an exam only to say that they’ll need more time.

“When you think you’re going to get it back and you don’t, it’s frustrating,” she said. “Sometimes I want to know right away.”

Clark added she understands why some tests could take longer to grade, like if an exam included only open-response questions.

But one of her instructors returned a test Monday after students took it Friday, she said.

“If he could grade all those, then why can’t other teachers with [teaching assistants] grade faster?” Clark said.

There are several reasons why instructors could take varying amounts of time to grade and return exams, said Robert Schlauch, director of undergraduate studies for the Department of Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences.

For him, he said it depends on his schedule and his TAs and also the types of questions on the exam.

Because his tests often include open-ended questions, Schlauch said he’ll usually look over the tests himself after the TA has done an initial evaluation.

Grading student work is “necessarily time consuming,” Schlauch said, especially if the instructor wants to give detailed feedback.

In addition, Schlauch said it would take longer to return an exam if students took it just before he left for a research conference.

Enforcing the policy

Students should first talk to their instructor if there’s a concern about timely evaluation of work, said Suzanne Bardouche, assistant vice provost for undergraduate education, in an email.

As director of undergraduate studies in his department, Schlauch said undergraduate students could bring concerns to him as well, adding that he didn’t think there is currently a problem with timeliness.

“If I don’t receive any queries, then I don’t know that there’s a problem,” he said.

Biochemistry and Spanish senior Rachel Drake said students will ask instructors how long it would be until exams were returned, but they won’t directly ask instructors to speed up the process.

“Students don’t usually voice those frustrations,” she said. “We can’t force professors to have a passion for teaching, and I think that’s really what it comes down to.”