The Horrors of Exams (no, seriously…)

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Continuing this series of catch-up posts, I wanted to write a little bit about what has been my predominant occupation over the past few months, namely exams and revising for them. Unfortunately for me, doing PPE at Oxford means doing all of the exams which count for my whole degree right at the end; no coursework, no resits, no nothing. From the 28th of May I faced eight 3-hour exams over 2 weeks, with my last 2 being on the same day. Honestly, it was an absolute nightmare. I spent a good few months before doing nothing but revising, which surprisingly really gets to you after only a short amount of time… Ha.

Even then, I feel like I wasted opportunities to revise after the Christmas vac, when PPEists are essentially given a revision term. I found it insanely difficult to get into revision, mainly because I’m awful at it. I did of course eventually get started, which was a relief, but trying to cram so much information into my brain was pretty horrific!

I was so worried about actually starting exams – at Oxford, they seem to make the whole process as difficult as possible. For every exam, we have to wear subfusc, which for guys means a suit, and for girls means white shirt, black skirt, shoes, and tights, and a neck ribbon/tie thingy. We then have to wear a gown on top of that, and take our mortar boards with us (although we are on no uncertain terms permitted to wear them. You just have to carry it about. Obviously). The exams take place in Examination Schools (duh) which is about the furthest away from my college as you can get. We aren’t allowed to put our names on anything and so have to remember to bring candidate numbers instead, which numerous people forget every time. We also have to have our university cards out on our desks, and although we are allowed to take gowns etc off during the exam, we have to be back in full dress when we leave (and they check…). For your first exam you need to wear a white carnation attached to your gown. For your middle exams, a pink carnation, which will undoubtedly die halfway through and you’ll have to run around the city trying to find another, or borrow a battered one off a friend. And for your last exam, a red carnation. Finishing almost a week after nearly everyone else made me very very jealous of people wearing red carnations.

Once exams have got underway, I did settle into a bit of a routine, but the time between my first exam and my last few more like months than just a couple of weeks. My final day was the worst (and the best, of course). Two exams in one day really took it out of me, although being trashed afterwards was great fun!

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It also made me appreciate the few days I had left at uni a bit more. Although others finished before me, I had such a packed 4/5 days after my last exam that it really made up for it. We went out for dinner for people’s birthdays, had official dinners with our tutors and the other Finalists, we went punting, sightseeing, and out for drinks. It really was a fantastic week, and a great way to finish my time at Oxford!

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