An Introduction to EXAMINE: A Flexible examination Scheduling System

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The majority of the examination timetabling software programs available today suffer from one of the following drawbacks: either the techniques are not very sophisticated, and therefore can't solve "difficult" problems, or they have been designed to satisfy the requirements of a particular institution. In this paper, we describe the latest version of a software package called EXAMINE that has been demonstrated to solve a wide variety of difficult, practical timetabling problems. EXAMINE has grown out of early work by Laporte and Desroches in the early 1980's. The technique is very robust; it generally finds a feasible, conflict-free solution if one exists. If conflicts are unavoidable (when there are simply too few periods available), then the package will minimize the number of students who have two examinations at a time. The underlying philosophy is to spread each student's exams as evenly as possible. One of the features that distinguishes EXAMINE from the rest is that the system can handle constraints of the form "no student shall take more than X examinations in any consecutive Y period". For example, many schools have rules like "no student can have 3 exams in a row" or "minimize the number of students with 4 exams in any 5 consecutive periods". EXAMINE also incorporates room and time restrictions, preassignments and period preferences/aversions for certain exams. We illustrate the many features of EXAMINE by taking the reader on a guided tour through the interactive screens which run under a WINDOWS environment on a PC. EXAMINE has been in use at the University of Toronto Faculty of Engineering since 1989 and it was implemented at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario in 1992. We describe the impact that EXAMINE has had on these two institutions. The package is also being used at the London School of Economics and the University of Otago in New Zealand.

, 15 pages

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