Two exams down, two more to go…

"Be so good they can't ignore you."

Some inspiration from Steve Martin!

Here we are in the middle of exams. For me, two down and two more to go this week. So far so good, but this is always the most trying time in the process for me. I enjoy managing four courses at one time, but this year it is a bit of a strain because of my work schedule. My first two papers were alright. By that I mean I think I maintained my academic performance of last term. For me, that is really not the goal but this year it might be the best I can do. I am learning a lot along the way, which feels very rewarding in its own way. Still, I can do better and that is my goal this week.

To manage work responsibilities and exams I wound up with two all-night study sessions before each paper last week. Not ideal, but some good came out of it. First, being very tired meant I had to really focus on each sentence. My essay plans were good, and I incorporated criticism and points from the texts. But I did not word the argument as well as I could have. I forgot my key phrases that point out incorporation of scholarship, and differentiate it from my opinion. Handy Phrases like, ‘some criticism considers…’ and ‘if we accept that…….’ are very helpful ways to link points and evidence in a paper.

On the way home I thought of a few things I should have said to link scholarship to the text and to my conclusion. Adding them would have really underscored my meaning and improved the papers both in content and in form. When writing under exam conditions it is very helpful to remind yourself to say what you mean, and not allow the readers to come to their own conclusions.

For my first two exams, if the examiners can read my handwriting, I think I wrote well enough to pass. Again, that is not really my goal. I do not want to finish my degree thinking I could have done better. For the next two papers, especially with their time line, I really want to focus on building my arguments.

It would be very nice to start the second week of exams well rested and with a good study foundation. I did get some rest on Saturday, but at the expense of study time. Because my exams are on Tuesday and Wednesday all night study sessions are not really possible. Saturday and Sunday were good study days, but for me, it is most helpful to really focus the day before exams. The last paper will likely be the most challenging because of the brief revising time.

Keep calm and graduate 2014If I pass these exams I will complete my degree this term. It will be difficult to give up studying and reading this particular way. Thinking about that makes it a little difficult to concentrate on what I need to do for exams. I have a few odds and ends at work that have to be finished today, the day before my last papers. Other than an hour or two on that my plan is to spend the entire day and evening on exam prep. My ‘handy phrases’ are added to my revising summary along with the points for close reading and tips for organizing my arguments. You probably will never hear anyone else say this, but I am really going to miss sitting exams!


Caowrites is studying the BA English by distance learning with the University of London International Programmes. She lives in Pittsburgh in the United States.

5 Responses to Two exams down, two more to go…

  1. John Stewart says:

    Good luck this week!

    I’ve enjoyed your posts this year.

    John Stewart, University of London Director of Legal Services

  2. Lief says:

    I share your sentiments. I have just finished sitting four Level 5 exams yesterday. I should celebrate and ‘forget’ about studying now; well, at least until next term starts. But no, when I got home last night after my last exam, I looked at the four piles of books, files and notes on my desk and while contemplating on putting them away, a strange feeling of sadness struck me. Having been on a high of pre-exam revision for at least the last five months or so, it has kind of become part of me, and it is difficult to suddenly switch over from hectic studying to ‘nothing more to do’ mode. So I am keeping the pile this year’s books and notes of my desk for the time being, and relish on the realisation that: no, I am not here at UoL just to do the exams: I have earned the experience of enjoying the learning processes themselves, including all the hard work and the struggle of revising, which perhaps are as valuable as the ultimate reward of graduating, hopefully in a year or two.

  3. Saravanan says:

    Dear friend,
    I enjoyed reading your post. My name is Saravanan, and i am from India. I am interested in doing BA English course. I want to do the Certificate course first then move to diploma and to BA. However, i have many questions regarding the course. do we have any mentor to guide in this regard? If so, please provide the details. I will be exceptionally thankful if you could help clarify my questions.

  4. caowrites says:

    Dear Saravnan, In my experience there is a lot of support for students in degree study. Recently the English department designed the program to provide more resources to students, especially in the beginning of study. You might look for U of L alumni in your area who can answer particular questions you have about studying English in this program before you apply. After you begin there are a number of resources for support and for questions. Does that help?

  5. uolblogger says:

    Hi Saravanan, you may like to contact one of our Alumni Ambassadors for advice. Ambassadors are graduates of the programme who have volunteered to help prospective students. Currently, we have no BA English ambassadors from India, however I’m sure they could still offer insight into studying the course. You can find their contact details at:

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