Market Street is quickly becoming decked in fairy-lights; shops have their glittery, winter fashion trends enticing students; we clutch hot Costa cups and bustle to and from classes, scarves bundled around necks and noses red from the freezing Fife cold. Amidst the frenzy of Christmas, there is still one thought nagging at everyone’s tinsel-filled minds, trying desperately to be heard over the streams of Christmas songs that run through our heads: exams.
Tests, quizzes, assessments, exams – none of these are new prospects for students here, all of whom have been working hard for years at school, scrawling out essays and cramming bundles of information until our heads almost explode. What is new, is the way in which we now revise here at uni, and, for many, this comes with a heightened sense of dread as the pace picks up.
One week to study for three exams. As first years, this idea seems absurd. Despite the fact that plenty have told us not to stress too much about first year, everyone wants good marks, and to rest easy after a semester of courses. Of course, by now, you can expect tighter deadlines (or maybe that’s just for us procrastinators…) and the rushed sense of panic as you try to submit your essay mere seconds before it is due; yet, even for those who have attended every lecture without fail, the thought of studying a semester’s worth of work in one week is undeniably daunting.
In high school, when studying for A levels, Highers, and Advanced Highers, the bliss of “study leave” made the trek towards exam period slightly easier. We left school, returning when we needed help or had specific questions, and spent the period “revising”. Past papers spilled over desks filled with mugs of coffee and old pens, furious scribblings and post-its on every corner. However, this time also meant no other work or deadlines, and the month could be filled with other, more enjoyable things to make the stress a little bit bearable: walks on the beach, visiting friends (for study groups, of course…), and no more of the 9 o’clock starts that wreak havoc on every student.
Now this seems like a distant dream, tossed away in the past couple of months which have swept by in a blur of new faces, essays, and events. Although we have swapped confinement for liberty, where nobody watches over our shoulders, tells us to “leave the phone alone!”, or claims the hours of study not to be enough, this is a new, bittersweet responsibility.
With only a week until exams, deadlines continue to sweep in. The worst is over, at this point, but a 55 page novel extract for International Relations beckons me, as well as chapters to read and “revision” classes to attend, on top of revision itself. At the same time, we have to reason with ourselves: socialising must take a backseat. Though seemingly obvious, this is in fact a difficult feat; Christmas themed nights seem to entice us from every social venue, and a couple of relaxing drinks at the pub turns into a whole night out, so that we wake up in the morning with not only a pounding head, but the sickening reminder that we need to get on top of work – fast.
For all freshers taking exams – good luck! We can only get used to this new type of system, which we have managed so far. Study habits have already been developed, and once you sit down and figure out a past paper, the end is not only nearer, but seems far more manageable. Deadlines have been met, classes attended, seminars participated in, and now we just have exams to get through; once brushed out of the way, Christmas becomes a fun time. We can read for pleasure, relax with a Baileys hot chocolate, visit the Christmas markets, and enjoy the lights that deck the streets of St Andrews.