Exams in the Uni Mannheim way

The process of going through exams in the University of Mannheim can be an annoyance, but at least sitting in the exam hall does not take too long. The basic features of having to register in advance and writing with pen on paper under time pressure are familiar, although there are some quirks that make taking an exam in Mannheim an experience.

The first peculiarity arises when registering to the exams. As I mentioned already before, registration is obligatory even for courses without exams. The only way to get credits from a course with a term paper is to sign it up in the registration form.

The annoying feature from a scheduling point of view is that the exam dates are released only a month before the exam period, and the exact times and locations, including a seat number, are confirmed a week before the exam. Getting home for Christmas cost me a hefty amount of money since I had my last exam on Friday the 21st and could safely schedule the flight only to Saturday the 22nd of December.

What was novel to me was the short duration of the exams, that only took 60 or 90 minutes. This is not an indicator of easiness, quite the contrary. One of my teachers declared that there was one point for each minute of time to be earned (60 minutes, 60 points). Accordingly, there will be too many questions to be answered with respect to the time available, so the answers must be known by heart to get something scribbled to every question. My two exams included multiple choice or right/wrong selection, definitions and open questions.

Nice to know: in one of my exams, I had to write both name and student number on every page of the exam. This was not required on the second instance, so the formalities seem to differ between courses and teachers. Another oddity was that pencils were not allowed, only pens. I thought it was strange that you could not erase your answer but in the time frame, there is no time to go back and ponder. And lastly: in Aalto, we are used to having the opportunity to freely participate to second and even third retakes. In the University of Mannheim, a doctor’s certificate of being ill on the first exam date is needed to be allowed to participate on the second take. Failing an exam does not automatically grant a retake.

Compared to the three hour exams in Aalto, 60-minute exams are an experience. The only advantage of such a condensed exams as a student is getting it quickly done, and from the university’s point of view, the ease of checking the results and knowing that the students have a good memory. What the short exams do not measure or teach is critical thinking and applying what was learned in a larger extent.