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By: Kaiwen Song

My 2015 winter term was pretty hectic. I had to prepare for two group presentations, three tests, a quiz, a full-day club event and an interview. While that sounds like enough stressors for an entire term, it all took place this week — the week after reading week. The break provides students with a chance to relax and recharge before facing their academic and extracurricular workload for the rest of the term. Unfortunately, it can also cause entire weeks — usually the one after the break — to be chockfull of assessments and commitments. Instead of a more even distribution of tasks over time, reading week concentrates those tasks to a much shorter time span.

The difficult situation that students find themselves in as a result of reading week is by no means impossible to navigate, but it does require committed organization and time management skills. We can take advantage of the ample free time that the break does provide to adequately prepare for all of their assessments. Unfortunately this means we must now be simultaneously prepared for up to five midterms as the break compresses the semester.

Reading week is by no means impossible to navigate, but it does require committed organization. 

Entering the break, we often have the false impression that we actually have a lot of time to prepare. A full week without class sounds like ample time. Many use the first few days to relax and unwind, and are then in a constant state of stress for the remaining days of the break. Others feel tempted to use reading week for a week-long vacation and find themselves overwhelmed when they return. The alternative is bringing the work on vacation, although that probably means you’ll fail at both reading and relaxing.

The break also makes group projects harder to complete as many students spend their week away from McMaster, which makes it much more difficult to meet in person.

Instead of feeling refreshed after the break, students experience burnout. We end up performing worse on midterms simply due to the stress that comes with all the assignments due the week back.

Reading week also impacts our exams. Because of the midterm recess there is no break between the end of classes and the beginning of exam period, which certainly doesn’t reduce the pressure.

There is one straightforward solution to all of these problems: remove reading week.

Assessments and extracurricular commitments will no longer be so concentrated, which may reduce student burnout and the intense demand for mental health services in the middle of the term. Students will also have more time to study for each individual assessment when they are spread out, which may result in better academic performance overall.

Best of all, there can now be a week between end of classes and the beginning of exams, a week that students can take full advantage of in order to excel academically.

Photo Credit: Camera Eye Photography

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