Teaching & Learning


Departments urged to offer one, two or three hour exams only

10 December 2019

Education Committee recommends streamlining to remove half-hour variations to improve student experience.

UCL exams at Excel

Examinations should be streamlined to remove half hour variations, so that they last one, two or three hours only.

That’s the recommendation from Education Committee (EdCom), following a consultation with faculties. While no changes can be made to module deliveries for the current academic year, departments are strongly advised to implement these changes for 2021 onwards.

At its December meeting, EdCom heard that this would improve the experience for students sitting examinations, reducing the movement of students in the examination hall while examinations are in progress.

UCL’s main examination venue, ExCeL London, has a capacity of 2,200 candidates in two adjoining halls, with 1,100 in each. It is impossible to avoid running mixed durations in the venue, creating disturbance for remaining candidates.

For each exam, students receive fifteen minute, five minute, one minute and end of exam warnings. They then leave the examination venue.

With the current mix of exam durations, including 1.5 and 2.5 hours, a student sitting a three hour examination will hear sixteen announcements and witness four exam hall exits by other students.

Professor Anthony Smith said: ‘The case for removing half hour variations is very strong. There are no pedagogical reasons for running exams that finish on the half hour, and this change will dramatically improve our students’ experience of assessment.’

What does this mean for my modules?

Existing examinations

Departments are asked to review their existing examinations and change one and a half and two and a half hour exams to one, two or three hours. This will improve the student experience and reduce the disruption caused.

New modules/Amendments

Education Committee has directed that no requests for new modules or assessment changes involving an exam on the half-hour will be approved in future.


Resits or deferred assessments will retain the original duration.

How will this be implemented?

There will be no requirement to submit module amendment forms. 

An Excel spreadsheet will be provided to departments listing all the modules that are offering half hour durations. Departments will then be able to indicate the revised duration and return the spreadsheet to the LifeCycle Team to update Portico. 

The changes to module deliveries for this “bulk process” will apply to duration changes only.

2019/20 Module Deliveries

There can be NO changes to module deliveries for the current academic year. Changes to durations will not affect the Main Exams or the Late Summer Assessment Periods in 2020.

2020/21 Module Deliveries

Departments will still be able to make changes to durations despite the 30 November deadline for module amendments having passed.

Date of Submission of a Return of Data Change impact 
31 January 2020Changes will be reflected in the 2020/21 module catalogue published in March 2020 and Main 2021 and LSA examination periods.  All future module catalogues and examination periods will reflect changes.
30 June 2020Changes will be reflected in Main 2021 and LSA examination periods and the summer refresh of the 2020/21 module catalogue. All future module catalogues and examination periods will reflect changes.