Phew! It has been a three-week whirlwind of exams and work and not much else. Despite having back-to-back exams for my last two papers, I somehow did two all night study sessions and lived to tell the tale. Although just a week has passed since my last exam, it feels like much, much longer. Now we begin the wait for our results. It has taken a few days to recover from the all night exam preps, a hectic work schedule, and the intensity of exam days. Now that Jelly Bean and I have had some good long naps, a few hikes in the park and have caught up on professional projects, we have started putting our ‘Exams and Results’ folder in order.
My ‘Exams and Results’ folder is a handy file where I keep things that are helpful when grades and Examiners’ Reports become available a few weeks from now. Things like my candidate number, the questions I attempted for each course, a summary of my answers and notes about how I wrote essays and structured arguments. I also make notes about how I revised for each paper. Writing these notes makes resources like the Examiners’ Reports much more useful. It is also helpful for planning next term’s study strategy.
Right now, just a week after exams, I could not tell you what questions I answered without looking at my notes. Memory of those details fades so fast, right along with the endorphins and the adrenaline. When planning a new term, it helps to consider if I felt limited in the selection of questions I could answer well, or if I was prepared to engage with a range of questions and could choose from among them to produce the strongest essays.
Making notes about the exam process is also useful. For example, how I reviewed before entering the exam room, how I chose questions, the amount of time allotted for making essay plans, and how I managed my time across three papers and the three hours allowed to complete them. This year fatigue was a major issue in two of my exams. To prepare both courses required all night study sessions because of my unusually demanding and inflexible work schedule. My handwriting suffered badly in one paper, and it was difficult to concentrate on my argument and to recall things like quotes from the texts. Making notes about those process issues helps put results in perspective, set goals, and plan accordingly.
Although there is not much one can do about a work schedule that suddenly becomes intense and urgent, I have literally made a note to the file never to schedule four exams again. The post exam mood swings, which are always something of a roller coaster, are so much more difficult following four papers! Right after exams I usually feel like a genius, which, I imagine is part of the fight or flight scenario. Now, a week later, something like a cold panic sets in as I calmly and coolly realize what I could and should have written to improve my answers. In a few weeks, I will settle into the realization of just about where my exam performance will fall. Right now, I worry over it. I hope I understood the rubric of the exams and the individual questions correctly, that my writing was legible, and that my arguments are sufficiently well-developed and presented. When the email arrives notifying us that results are posted and Examiners’ Reports are available, my ‘Exams and Results’ folder will be my best friend, a bit of a security blanket and a guide to putting the results into perspective.
Caowrites is studying the BA English by distance learning with the University of London International Programmes. She lives in Pittsburgh in the United States.