It might seem unusual to make my first post about exams. Exams were a month ago; a whole new year is ahead. But I love the exam process in the External Programs. I enjoy exams perhaps more than any other aspect of the program. Exams are a way to engage with the texts and my learning process, to evaluate my strategies and gain insights vital to success in a self-directed program.
Maybe I should say I learned to love the exam process. When I applied to the program three years ago I had no English studies experience and no meaningful basis to organize my study approach. I chose Renaissance Comedy as my first exam because it had the fewest texts and I thought it would be the easiest course in terms of time management. The morning I sat for that exam was nerve-wracking, but I answered the required questions and earned a second class mark for my efforts.
In 2009 I enrolled for the Explorations 1 exam. My mark in year two was twelve points higher than in year one. I worked differently, but how did I manage to achieve this improvement? After each exam I analyze things like what questions I attempt, what texts and critical arguments I use, what I do well and what could I do better. I take notice of time management in the exam room, the quality of my essay plans and if my work is produced under pressure or with purpose. My goal is to discover how I can improve essay content and time management. Ultimately I will decide how my study process can be organized to achieve my goals.
Everyone has different goals when enrolling in the External program. I enrolled to learn about creative writing. Now I also want to earn a first class degree. 2010 is my third year writing exams and my first writing more than one exam paper. The two papers I attempted in May complete the Foundation courses. If I pass the papers I can go on to more in-depth work. This is a momentous academic year. Advancing in the program and earning a first class degree can only be accomplished through my performance in three precious exam hours each year. It’s vital to utilize them wisely. I treasure them and analyze them carefully.
There are some re-occurring exam issues that I want to master this year. I realized for me English studies are about writing. This surprised me even with my reason for enrollment. I am also surprised that producing better essay plans is still the technique needed to most improve my exam performance and study skills. I should write essay plans all year and train myself to write in the way that will be most effective in exams. This one thing presents the greatest challenge and offers the greatest reward. I’ve learned to love exams so much because really understanding my performance makes achieving my goals possible. This year I am going to fully engage with the writing aspects of the exam process. I’ll keep you posted.