One month has passed since exams although it feels like an eternity since then. My one month post exam ritual starts with re-reading my post exam notes and ends with finalizing my summer study plan. As I opened my notes and started reading there was the familiar, immediate shock that feels like a kind of dissociation with the material. Did I really write that? Armed with my notes and feeling refreshed from a month off I used this week to think about the best way to study over the summer months.
Reviewing my post exam notes is a great way to start working on study strategies. When I review my notes what I did well and the areas where I need work become fairly obvious. It helps me decide what strategies to keep, which ones to add, and what did not seem to work at all. For example, I am reading four courses in the next term so I have to think about balancing reading enough primary texts with in-depth study and reading to place the texts in context.
One thing that worked very well for me before exams was engaging with some lectures and background materials. It helped me analyze the primary texts more effectively and I think efficiently and definitely helped with context. I have an idea of what courses I want to study so engaging with some lectures on my selected topics is something I am looking forward to. Our Study Guides usually recommend background study first, but for me, it has felt awkward to study a history and context before familiarizing myself with primary texts. This year, considering the benefits I experienced in exams, I will dedicate some study time to context this summer. It might include lectures, attending some plays, and reading. A local theater is producing Shaw’s ‘Candida’ in a few weeks which should be very interesting.
There is no substitute for reading the primary texts several times, so I am going to pick eight for each unit and begin reading. One thing that really helped me in exams and I think will help me improve results in the new term is carefully selecting topics I want to research and using that choice to choose what authors and texts to read. My interests are leaning towards Romantics and Gothic elements, especially American Gothic and Southern Gothic, an American specialty not to be missed. I could spend a blissful year with Tennessee Williams.
We lived in the American south for many years. It occurred to me that everyone should live there for a while before reading Faulkner. I just can’t wait to read Faulkner in this program, and Kate Chopin, and Thornton Wilder, and so many others. You might guess that narrowing the number of primary texts is a big problem for me. Being more selective at the start could mean more focused research later on, especially when reviewing my exam notes and remembering my experience in the Augustans and Romantics exam.
The last element I noticed in my review is how effective I am when structuring in my essays. Structure is not an easy thing to define, analyze, or create. If you look closely at Shakespeare’s plays you can see how disciplined he was about structure on every level from the beginning to the end. In exams this year I felt more in control of structure in my arguments but it remains a skill to be mastered.
Analysis of my exam notes and the experience of last term showed me three areas of special focus: more focus on context, more focused research, and more attention to structuring arguments. Now that 1 July is here I am digging in with a few plans for an effective study agenda over the summer that builds in those three points. I will be reading some primary texts, doing some writing exercises to build better skills in argumentation, and studying context. When September comes around, I want to start four new courses with confidence.
Caowrites is studying the BA English by distance learning with the University of London International Programmes.