Reflection on the Summer Series

by Gillian Cooke, 02 June 2020
1907 July Juniors Timetable from Cambridge Assessment's Archives

We think of May and June as the main summer examination season so, as exam rooms stand empty in 2020, this time of year feels particularly odd.

However, despite setting exams for over 160 years, Cambridge didn’t begin setting local exams for school leavers in the summer until 1907. Until that time all our examinations were held at the one session a year, in December.

We think of May and June as the main summer examination season so, as exam rooms stand empty in 2020, this time of year feels particularly odd.

Cambridge Syndics were established six months after the Oxford Delegates who decided to set the Oxford Local Exams in the summer. "We took the only season left open to us by the choice of Oxford", explained the Cambridge Secretary, G F Browne, at the time and the exams were duly held each year in the last full week before Christmas.

When we did start to offer examinations in the summer, however, summer really did mean summer, and the examinations for 1907 began on Monday 15th July. As with the December exams, they ran for just a week and candidates for the Preliminary, Junior and Senior exams for summer 1907 sat their last papers on Saturday 20th July – so, the session was short, but it was also very intensive. There were three sessions of exams on each day – morning, afternoon and evening, running from 9am to 8pm!

With such late summer exams, you might expect the results to be released later than they are today but the class lists, which record all the successful candidates, were published on 19th August.

The first summer exams attracted several new centres, and total candidate figures for the year leapt from 15,932 in 1906 to 18,913 in 1907.

The Cambridge summer series was continued, alongside the winter series, until the new national examinations system introduced the School Certificate and Higher School Certificate as national school leaving qualifications in 1917. From then on, the summer series became the main examination session for school leaving examinations.


1907 Regulations from Cambridge Assessment's Archives and Heritage

Cambridge Assessment Archives and Heritage support learners by providing a rich resource of information about the development of school exams and educational assessment. We have a broad history dating back to 1858, when we were known as the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate (UCLES).

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