Views on the News: Girls at Oxford Given More Time in Exams

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A recent article by The Telegraph revealed that for the first time, female students at Oxford University have been given more time to complete exams than their fellow male students in an attempt to boost underperformance in girls. 

Previously, twice as many male students obtained a first class degree compared to female students, and in 2016 the board of examiners urged the university to make significant changes to try and improve the results of their female students.

Oxford’s answer to this concerning statistic was to allow girls more time in exams, as university lecturers say that apparently “female candidates might be more likely to be adversely affected by time pressure”. Any statistics or research there is for this statement, I have yet to find. Female students are awarded exactly 15 minutes of extra time. In the current system, students who are deemed to be at a disadvantage in comparison to the rest of the student body are given extra time to complete exams. This could be because they have a physical, mental or cognitive disability which could hinder their chances at doing well, through no fault of their own.

As far as I’m aware, being female doesn’t fall under any of these categories, and gender does not definitively affect a person’s intelligence or ability to work under time pressure. Unless you fall under one of the categories above, it is all down to the individual and the way they are able to cope with working under pressure or completing tasks quickly and efficiently; some are better at it than others. I have no idea why females are scoring significantly lower in exams than males, and although it is a disappointing statistic, the answer is not to give them more time. This not only undermines women, as it assumes that because of their sex they are “doomed to failure” and must be given help, but it also positively discriminates against males by giving women an unfair advantage purely because they are women. Underperforming boys do exist! What about them? Are they given extra time too?

I’m sure that few minutes of extra time will help those girls who are underperforming, but then again anyone who is given extra time will inevitably do well. We can’t go around giving people extra time to do things because they’re simply not good at them. Outside of university, you may be given a task to do that you don’t understand or that you find difficult and it has to be done in a week. Do you go to your boss and ask for an extension for no good reason other than “it’s a bit difficult”? You make the effort, spend all the time you have, and make it work. Ask others with knowledge and experience to help you – use google! There is no easy way out.

Oxford is taking the easy way out. In a lazy attempt to boost scores which make them look good as an institution, but doesn’t actually benefit these underperforming girls. There is an underlying reason why these girls are being failed by the education system. What it is, I don’t know. But time and resources would be better spent getting to the bottom of it rather than choosing the quicker option which both undermines girls and is unfair to boys.

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Features Editor 2017/18, Sub-Editor 2018/2019, BA English Student.

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