So a lot has happened in the past 10 days. I turned 49, my husband Craig and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary, and in there somewhere I sat three exams. Fundamentals of Epidemiology (EPM101), Statistics with Computing (EPM102), and Practical Epidemiology (EPM103). There’s not much point in reflecting now on what I might have done differently, since I don’t know how I did: results are due in August and it’s really only then that I’ll have a sense of how effective my revision strategy was. That said, the exams are fresh in my mind so now is a reasonable time for a few minutes’ reflection, regardless of whether I passed or failed.
I made a crazy decision the week before exams. In the midst of full-on revision, with my husband carrying the full weight of family duties as I hunched over my computer hour after hour, I decided to join a gym! I could have waited until the week after exams, but thought I should take my own advice and carve out some time for myself. This move was partly born of necessity. I didn’t turn 49 for nothing—my body is speaking up in ways it never did, to tell me that sitting for hours on end in front of a screen is not the way it wishes to be treated. I am sure that my handful of pre-exam workouts contributed to any success I might have had during exam week.
I also let go of lots of standards to focus on what I felt was essential. For instance, my family has been eating lots of frozen meals in the past 6 weeks. It’s not going to kill us and it gave me a precious extra half-hour each afternoon for revision. We also practiced a more active than usual “laundry reduction program”—I felt no qualms about fishing a pair of basically-clean jeans out of the dirty laundry basket for my eldest son to wear again.
In a bizarre way, it felt great to sort of bury myself in epidemiology for the past 6 weeks. It’s a fascinating topic, for starters. And it always feels good to give your all to something, even for a brief period. What was best about revision, though, was how much I learned. Somehow, sitting the practice exams, putting my notes together, then copying them again, and again, exchanging questions and answers on the discussion forums, and reflecting on each course as a whole, gave me new insights. For instance, revising statistics helped me to have a tiny bit better understanding of the basic scenarios that are presented throughout the course, and how they interrelate. Like anyone, I don’t love sitting exams—but I have to say I am grateful for the way they forced me to concentrate.
I didn’t really find any surprises in the exams, and as I mull over the mistakes I’m sure I made, I comfort myself by considering that exams are really supposed to be a record of what I do—and don’t—know. If I didn’t know it well enough to put down the right answer, in a way that’s fine, because my grade will reflect the true state of my knowledge.
Anyway, real life has reasserted itself. I’ve started the fourth course for my certificate, Writing and Reviewing Epidemiological Papers, and am already enjoying it and learning a ton. I’m hoping to switch my registration to the MSC in epidemiology later this summer if (fingers crossed) I passed my exams. Meanwhile, I have a work deadline to meet, a family vacation to prepare for, kids to shepherd through the last 2 weeks of the school year, and a husband to relieve of his excess familial duties. Best of all, last night my boys and I re-started our nightly read-aloud sessions. They help me keep everything in perspective.