Why I’ll (almost) never complain about written exams again
This month I have been in the winter exam season at La Sapienza, and as I’ve explained in previous posts, these exams are spoken. There are plenty of disadvantages to this (number one being that Italian is not my first language), and for this reason I’ve recently become extremely grateful for the process at Warwick.
Believe me, after the famous Provisional Timetable Disaster of 2019, I never thought I would be recommending the UK exam system to anyone. However, this Tuesday I sat my Archaeology and History of Greek Art exam, and by the time I got back from campus I was about ready to send a clingy email to Warwick about how much I missed them.
My day went a little bit like this:
7.30 AM: Wake up, get dressed, get breakfast, out of the door before 8 (the exam is at 9 and I don’t want to be caught out by the rush hour traffic).
8.17 AM: My bus has not arrived, so I take an alternative route of two buses, terrified that I will be late
9.05 AM: I arrive, thinking I’m late, to my lecturer’s office. There is a crowd of students. He waltzes in ten minutes later.
9.30 AM: The lecturer explains that, despite booking our exam for this specific day, he won’t be able to examine all of us. My friend and I push to the front to insist he sees us that day. The wait begins.
12.00 PM: Two and a half hours and four students later, the lecturer emerges from his office. We watch him saunter up to the vending machines and leisurely take a coffee break. We are starting to get hungry.
2.00PM: We have been here five hours. Another four students have been and gone. The lecturer emerges again. ‘I’m taking a lunch break.’ He says. ‘I’ll see you later.’. Pins and needles, hunger barely satisfied by a handful of raisins. We hadn’t brought lunch, and the campus selection was not ideal. I make do with a coffee.
2.45PM: The lecturer returns. We wait. At this point we fall into hysteric laughter. If we don’t do that we’ll cry. The Italian students think we are crazy. I can barely keep my eyes open.
3.30PM: There are four of us left. We have all started pacing in idle frustration. My friend is called in.
4.00PM: After 7 HOURS outside his office, the lecturer calls me in. I am starving, my eyes are out of focus and I can barely speak English, let alone Italian. He asks me horrendously specific questions, which I can barely focus on, and barely answer. He passes me ‘with some problems’, and I am free.
4.20PM: I’m calling my mother and ranting about how much I miss Warwick’s exam system.
It was honestly such a surreal day. 7 whole hours just staring along this corridor:
(yes, those legs belong to other students camping out on the floor to sit the same exam)
By the end of it, I wasn’t even nervous for the exam. I was exhausted, frustrated and angry. And to top it off, he didn’t ask me about anything that I had spent hours and hours studying.
However, this was an exceptionally bad experience. Not all exams in Italy are like this. To counteract how bad this one was, the next morning I had another one that I was in and out of in about 15 minutes, and I achieved a really good grade. For me, the worst part is just not knowing what you’re walking into. I guess what I’m saying is, I miss the idea that if an exam is stated to start at 9AM, it starts at 9AM. Italy could learn a thing or two about time-slots.