Taking exams at Westminster Abbey!
05.18.2009 59 °F
Sorry for the lack of updates, but I've been a little preoccupied with revision for a past few weeks, or month.... Let's just say it's been a long time, and I'm definitely sick of studying. Initially, I thought the Brits were crazy/lazy, because they had literally two months to study for finals. Then I discovered a lot of them had 8 exams, because all of them are year end. Because there is so much time for studying, I have now discovered that professors definitely emphasize quality of work. The exams are usually essay based, and they scrutinize every little detail because they take two months to grade a paper. Also, professors expect students to do a lot of external reading, and use them to strengthen the arguments inside a paper. Some of my friends took a bio class and had to write a paper requiring 50 sources! Seriously, that's like a 20 page paper, and a 10 page bibliography!
Exams are also pretty much the entire grade. Mine range from 70% to 100%. So if you bomb the test, you fail, and lots of people do actually fail. There are no pity points, because professors have no idea who you are. You don't put your name on the exam paper, only your candidate number, so professor can pass impartial judgment (like God). If you fail, you can retake exams, but since I'm a study abroad student, I don't exactly think it's feasible for me to fly back next year to retake an exam (or maybe it's an excuse to come back....) Anyhow, I've been poring over my textbooks, and taking copious notes. I think I copied my Business Strategy textbook verbatim into notes -- twice.
I'm also becoming increasingly distracted by the bookmark that I bought at Oxford University. It has a picture of a gargoyle holding a diploma. Underneath, it says:
The more I study, the more I know. The more I know, the more I forget. The more I forget, the less I know. So why study?
At first I thought it was just funny, but now I think it's true. The more I study, the less I know. I feel like my brain is like hard drive, and I can only fill it with so many bytes of information. If I try to pack more information, information further down the stack gets deleted. When I finished my first final, I felt like I just completed a memory dump. My essay was like a verbal vomit, overflowing with information that I could no longer contain inside my brain. Now I have to reformat it, and upload information for my next finals.
Finally, the craziest thing about exams in London is where I actually go to take it. I don't know how it works in Universities in NY, but London Universities have no classrooms large enough for exams. Hence, they have to rent out enormous halls at places at Westminster and the Royal Horticulture Center. The halls are filled with 1000 seats. Yes, that's three zeros. You are assigned a seat number, and you be better get there early if you're in seat 999. It's also quite daunting to look up during an exam, and see 999 other people writing furiously.
Another thing, the exam venue does not open its doors until 20 minutes before the exams. Thus, you have a thousand people jostling to use the bathroom, and find a place to put their bags in the clock room. As if the exams weren't stressful enough already! Whatever you take into exam hall must be in a transparent plastic bag, and the invigilator will walk back and forth during your exam to check things. It can actually get a bit annoying, especially when they checked my name against a list three different times in one hour. Seriously, I AM NOT A TERRORIST!
I just finished taking my Management Accounting exam at the Central Hall Westminster:
It's opposite Westminster Abbey and Houses of Parliament. It just feels so weird to be taking an exam in such an important place. Seriously, if King's students take exams here, what about students who go to University College London (UCL)? Or London School of Economics (LSE)? Maybe they get a room at Buckingham Palace!
So after I finished my exam in the morning, I did go visit Westminster Abbey. Why not?
P.S If you thought this was the end, then you're wrong. My life is never without drama, even during finals. Apparently when you sign up for exams, you are assigned an examination passport. Then you need a visa to take an exam, and as any Chinese person knows, getting a visa is always problematic. I'm currently unregistered for my last exam, so I have to show up on the 27th and hope for a spot. Fun fun.
Why can't my exams be more like this: