Prestigious Oxford University in Britain extended exam times exclusively to women in a bid to improve their scores, reports on Monday said.
Female students taking math and computer science tests in the summer of 2017 were given an additional 15 minutes to finish, according to the documents obtained by the London Times.
No changes were made to the difficulty or length of questions. The university reportedly said women performed better as a result of the extension.
The move came after university officials deemed female candidates more likely to suffer from “the undue effects of time pressure” and thought the time extension could “mitigate the … gender gap that has arisen in recent years.”
The officials also said they believed the exam “should be a demonstration of mathematical understanding and not a time trial.”
Some academics reportedly voiced their concerns about the initiative, calling it “sexist” for suggesting women require special treatment. But others welcomed the move.
One math professor said women tend to double-check their answers and that makes them slower.
Sarah Hart, a mathematics professor at Birkbeck, University of London, told the Times that unlike women, men were quicker to answer questions, although they are also more likely to be incorrect.
“I am a big fan of giving people as much time as they want to do exams. After all, you never have to prove theorems against the clock in real life so mere speed is not what we want to assess,” she said.
A spokesman for the university defended the measure, telling the UK’s Daily Telegraph that the move was “"academically demanding and fair” and stressed that 39 percent of female mathematicians acquired top scores compared to 47 percent of men.
“The departments are not drawing any firm conclusions from the first year’s data. However, third-year female students did show an improvement on their second-year marks,” the spokesperson told the Times.
“While there is clearly more progress to be made, the departments will continue with the longer papers for the foreseeable future, monitoring the exam data carefully.”