At. Last. FREEDOM! I cannot begin to tell you how good it has felt over the last couple of days to have finished all my exams. To me, it seems that the general consensus among my friends at Warwick and other students at the moment is: Relief at finishing > Concern over how well exams went. Which isn’t really a bad thing, unless you know it’s gone disastrously… and then… well… what’s done is done and there’s not much point doing yourself in over it. Finishing just feels too damn good after weeks of preparation and stress to worry too much about the results. Save that for the couple of days before your results are released, if you have to.
Also, I am now in the process of sorting out my room mate for my year abroad, at the INCREDIBLE Tropicana Del Norte, where I will be lucky enough to live next year. Giles and I agreed to try and sort out sharing a room, but this is still unconfirmed and being worked on (for those of you who missed his previous cameo in an earlier post, he’s my course mate who’s from Warwick and also coming to UCSB next year). It seems like we may have to share with strangers as lots of people seemed to grab single spaces in double rooms very early on, so there were none left by the time we tried to sort it. However, some of these have now disappeared, so who knows. Giles is going to hate me so much for this, but this nugget of a photo is comedy gold. Here’s the buffoon himself:
Mr. Giles Herring- my year abroad partner-in-crime. Expect more photos of this nature of one or both of us as the year goes on. I bloody hope so personally, who wants boring photos. To be honest, I reckon it’s the mad ones which are really memorable anyway.
I have to say though, now that I’ve finished exams, there are some aspects to the examination process which I think are pretty poorly administered. Take, for example, my last exam. It’s a US politics module, and it has been really enjoyable. The subject matter has given us a better understanding of the monolith that is American politics, but more importantly, the lecturer and seminar tutor have really made it easy to approach. Even for someone like myself, who had never studied politics in any shape or form prior to taking the module. Nevertheless, I was assessed in a 50/50 split, between a 3000 word essay and an exam. The essay bit I was fine with, the exam, not so much. The exam, if taken as 50% of the module like I did, is two questions in an hour and a half. 45 minutes per question, but let’s be realistic (taking planning and reading into consideration) and say that the maximum writing time per question is 40 minutes. 80 minutes to represent a year’s worth of studying. That’s all the time we have to demonstrate our knowledge on topics as complex as the political culture in the US, as massive as the US Congress, or as elusive as the impact of religion on political processes. Moreover, when you think about that exam as a percentage of our degree, it’s even more incredible. That exam constitutes 5% of my degree, assessed by 80 minutes of frantic scrawling. It may not seem like much, but 5% isn’t something to be sniffed at in the broader picture of the degree as a whole. Especially when, like I said, you’re attempting to wrestle a cogent argument on such sweeping, large and complicated topics.
On the other hand, you could argue that it forces you to be quick-thinking and responsive, and able to coherently cover the questions in a succinct manner. Or, more realistically, you try and predict what question will come up, identify likely areas, study the recurring aspects to the topics, and even go as far as having ready-prepared essay plans memorised for specific questions. How is that assessing us?! To paraphrase one bloke I overheard in a student pub, where’s the thinking involved in that? In my opinion, you could suggest that it’s testing memory, not knowledge.
Please don’t get me wrong though, I am not particularly slating that specific module, because it seems applicable to many other exams at university, not just the US politics module. Nor am I bemoaning the system, I just think that assessment needs to be tweaked so as to be more representative of the year’s work as a whole body. Perhaps we could have more frequent, lower percentage, examinations throughout the year- four 25% exams throughout the year, or a 40% essay and two 30% exams, spaced accordingly to the course topics.
Still, I’m just spitballing here, and noting this opinion as it has become apparent to me after finishing up my second year at university. Which is still a fantastic idea in itself, and the new freedom has been a blast so far. I’m sure the novelty will wear off 4-5 weeks into summer, when I’m back into a regular work routine at my little job in a beach cafe and driving my parents bonkers with erratic and excessive eating habits (I eat like a horse and I love the magically refilling fridge that comes with returning home). Well. The idea of finishing second year is fantastic… until I think that I have now completed half of my degree… and am halfway towards actually… having to… get……
…. a job.