By Olivia Smith, History, Australian National University, Australia.
At a time when most of my friends back home have already finished their exams and summer celebrations are well underway, Canberra is 1 degree centigrade and I only have 1/3rd of my exams out the way. Even so, as I sit in the study room at 9am, trying to whip up the academic motivation I lost as soon as I stepped on the plane in February, I’m keen to explain that exams here at ANU really aren’t so bad. A productive form of revision procrastination if I do say so myself…
First off, I’ll remind you that I study History, which over here is just a ‘Bachelor of Arts’ and a History major. I’m also technically minoring in Middle Eastern studies because I’m doing an Iranian history module, but their system is confusing to explain even when you understand it properly, which I do not. Anyway, bare in mind that for those of you studying a Science, this blog may be totally irrelevant, but I’ll try and keep it as general as possible so that it applies to most degrees.
So first of all, exams over here no matter what your degree, tend to have a slightly lighter weight than those back home. For example in one of my courses, the exam is worth 30%, and I have coursework and participation marks that make up the other 70%. I know for History, and probably most other courses, that exams in Manchester barely ever fall below 50%. Now depending on who you are and how you like to study this may not be good news, but I know for most of us, myself included, exams aren’t usually the funnest of things to do, and it’s comforting that there’s a little less pressure over here because they aren’t worth as much. It’s also the point of the semester where most of my international friends are heading back home; having less exam stress also makes it slightly easier to arrange to see them all before they leave, obviously another benefit.
Slightly less lovely, and actually kinda annoying, ANU don’t really give a study break between end of lectures and start of exams. So I had 3,000 and 2,500 word assignments due every week in May until the 26th, and lectures till then too, with my first exam only 6 days later. There were 3 days of ‘Stu-Vac’ (student vacation aka study period) but this doesn’t really compare to the time we’re given in Manchester, which if I remember correctly is over 2 weeks. So my advice would be to start revision whenever you can, something I should have done myself but got slightly muddled in all my essays. Basically organise your life somewhat pre-June time.
My last 2 exams are also open-book, although I’m yet to decide if it’s a good thing or a bad thing. Obviously it means I don’t have to remember as many dates and statistics and stuff, and we can literally take anything into the exam as long as it’s not a textbook from the library here. BUT I assume this means they’re tougher with marks because they think people would do better. Well I’m not sure yet as I haven’t done either exam but I guess I’ll see once I get my marks back how the open-book compares with the normal, closed book exam. Also the open book exam is 3 hours (!) and I have to write 4 essays (heck), where the closed book exam was only 2 essays in 2 hours. Again, I’ll see how that goes, can’t say I’m super excited but it’ll probably be fine with the adrenaline of the exam etc etc.
So there are obviously perks & disadvantages to the exam system over here, and I guess I won’t really know how they compare until I’ve finished all 3 exams and maybe even until I see how well I’ve done. But basically exam season here is not all gloomy, even though it’s the start of winter and I keep seeing Snap Chats of my friends in the beer garden of the Friendship Inn. My top tip would be organise yourself a little before lectures end, because once they do exams come round real fast. But also remember that you’re on exchange, in probably a far away land, and at the end of the day they’re only exams, (sorry to any professors or lecturers that might end up reading this). Be organised, but have fun !