Reflections on Exams
It is done. To quote Daniel Day-Lewis during the finale of There Will Be Blood (2007), “I’m finished”. My exams are all over, and what an enlightening experience it has been. Now, being a mature student, it’s been almost a decade since I’ve had to do any sort of educational or academic examination, so naturally I was initially pretty rusty. However, the events of the past year (I’m now realising this blog has essentially been my pandemic diary) has meant that all students are experiencing something new in terms of exams – the days of bringing a pen, pencil and maybe a clear bottle of water into an exam hall are long past us, instead we are destined to sit in front of a computer screen, submitting our answers electronically. So how was the experience of taking exams in this new format, and what have I learnt?
It had been a long time since I was required to do any sort of revision. With essays being my most preferred method of assessment thus far, the need to cram a bunch of specific information on the chance that it may appear in the exam was certainly a shock to the system initially. However, I found myself in the groove relatively quickly. Focusing on specific areas I had studied was a real productive way to manage revision, also allowing me to further explore a topic I hadn’t gone in depth with before. The presence of online exams, and their position as open book, really helped inform what notes I took, and how I utilised them. Honestly, revising here was a lot better than I remember GCSE revision being.
Management and Use of Time
I’m not sure an hour has ever been so short. When you’re waiting for a train, an hour feels like an eternity. When doing an exam, an hour feels like no time at all. Another shock to the system having not experienced such circumstances for a long time, seeing the clock, writing more of my answer, and then returning to the clock to see time had advanced 20 minutes was incredibly daunting at first. Yet it is important to not panic, to not panic but rather to remain focused on the answer and task at hand. This in particular meant a shift in writing style and method, with my tactics for essay writing being helpful, but arguably not an exact formula to replicate in the hour exam period. Being able to adapt may seem tricky, but I actually found the time limit to be useful in such circumstances – I had no choice but to adapt and manage time differently, developing not only my style and ability, but also my approach and management.
It is perhaps vital to take some time for yourself after an exam. It is very easy to submit an answer and then begin to stress and dissect what you wrote, but it is not at all helpful or useful. Instead, the moment after submission, take a deep breath and relax: you’ve done it, gone and have some fun, treat yourself even. Of course, completing one exam does not mean completing all your exams, and it is important to focus and continue revising, but it is equally important, I would argue, to let your brain relax. I found myself going swimming, a great way to detox and unwind after an exam. Having some time to yourself doing something enjoyable away from the world of exams and university work is a great way to remain calm, which in itself also helps when it comes time to study for next one.
So congratulations to everyone who has completed their exams and has finished this unprecedented year of university. For those still studying, good luck -you’ve got this. Have a good summer…