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.
If 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.