Week one of my preparations for exams is complete and my anxiety about Victorian literature has reduced considerably. I did not accomplish as much as I wanted to but I am not exactly behind schedule, and the work I accomplished is high quality and satisfying. Today, while reviewing my week’s work and remembering last year’s exam prep, I realized one week per course is probably not realistic. But if I switch to a two-weeks per course timetable it will take my revision right up to my first exam, which feels a little risky. Here is the first time and material management puzzle to solve on the way to exams.
My goal for each week was to have three strong essays completed for the course I am revising. This week I managed two well-researched papers, and I feel satisfied with both of them. I did not write them under exam conditions, but one thing at a time seemed like the wisest strategy to start. Writing under exam conditions before tackling sufficient research is not a very pleasant experience.
One reason my research and revising went so well this week despite other demands and schedule pressures is the quality of my secondary reading. I found some wonderful resources that help me to answer my research questions easily. Fortunately, each of the articles referenced several texts I am revising. This makes grasping the points a bit easier than secondary reading which discusses texts I have not read. Although the secondary reading is engaging, it is also challenging and required more time than I anticipated.
Instead of interrupting this productive secondary reading, I concentrated on it at the expense of close reading of primary texts. Because of my concentration on select articles, I have not yet read a few more that are equally important. In order to prepare sufficiently for my exam I need to revise all of the material. This will very likely require another week studying Victorian Literature rather than moving on to the next course.
This week I decided to keep a list of primary texts and page numbers referenced in the articles I am reading, along with a list of texts and passages I identified as relevant. This will be my close reading for the week, which I will start after I finish the remaining articles on the last few topics in Victorian Literature that I want to research, and after writing my third paper for the course.
It is interesting to see what happens when I start revising in earnest. Often I discover things I thought I grasped need more effort. I find topics of great interest that I did not identify earlier. Starting to revise early gives me time to strengthen weak areas and to build on newly discovered strengths and interests. For me, it is important to be flexible and be attentive to getting the best results for my effort.
What is the best way to manage my revising schedule between now and my first exam? For me, not keeping to my schedule causes some anxiety because I know there is limited time and I have high goals for each course and this set of exams. Leaving extra time to revise is an important strategy to compensate for particular needs and demands. Reminding myself to be flexible is also important. How I decide to proceed could affect the way I revise for my other three courses. I have to remind myself that evaluating outcomes and adjusting to achieve the best results is a good reason for altering my study plans. This week I am going to focus on the good work I can do for my Victorian Literature course, even though it means reconsidering my revising calendar. I would rather feel well prepared for each course as exam day approaches. That is the best way to keep to my schedule.
Caowrites is studying the BA English by distance learning with the University of London International Programmes. She lives in Pittsburgh in the United States.