An Open Letter to University Exams

I am prefacing this article with a simple statement – I am really bad at exams. Like, really bad. To the point that I still have these recurring nightmares about my final school exams. It may very well be that I have a genetic defect, where instead of my body producing adrenaline during exams, my brain kind of goes “nope, no thanks, not today, Satan.” Alternatively, I may just be really, really bad at exams.

Whatever the case, when exam season rolls around I prepare my extensive catalogue of revision notes, and I also prepare for failure. With the current mayhem surrounding the uncertain fallout that strike action might have with regard to this term’s examinations, I felt it time I confronted my demons in an open letter to this lifelong enemy of mine in. So, here it is.

Photo: Swanwick Hall

Dear Exams,

You have been my constant (and unwanted) companion throughout the entirety of my mainstream education. Like the proverbial “creepy men of the Vic”, you are ever-present despite being uninvited and unwanted by all in attendance. On the dancefloor of life, your groping hands and uncomfortable gaze are always near.

The mere thought of you makes my skin crawl. No matter the amount of late library nights spent hunched over, surrounded by a debris of stale coffee cups and the remnants of my dilapidated Tesco meal deal , you always get the better of me. Why must you mock me so? I mean, haven’t I also been your constant companion? I always arrive for our meetings on time and ever eager to impress. I give and I give, and what is my repayment? A mixed bag of dashed hopes and grade-average plummets.

The truth is – you’re an impossible contradiction. You exist in order to prove my knowledge – and to ensure I haven’t spent every class perfecting the skill of the open-eyed power nap – however, that same class emphasises expanding our  knowledge and opinions on the course material, rather than reciting the entirety of T.S Eliot’s The Wasteland by heart. You exist so that I may be better prepared, should I decide to pursue a career in academia (currently, I’m not overly hopeful) – however, I have yet to experience a lecture or seminar where the professor is denied access to the source material being discussed. You exist to improve me as a student – however, you wreak havoc on me as a person.

Photo: Wales Online

Ultimately, you should not be imposed on us. You are out-dated and unnecessary. You should be done away with, or in the very least offered optionally for those who might actually thrive under your conditions. You are detrimental to my mental health, my grades, and my nerves. You ought to be revisited, reconsidered, re-examined inter-departmentally as a compulsory aspect of university assessment.

I am tired of you preventing me from performing at my best. I am sick of accepting you as a pointless yet necessary evil, a leech on the morale of students everywhere. It’s high time the powers-that-be implement a style of assessment that actually assesses our knowledge and development, instead of our ability to recite and regurgitate during a given three hour time slot. To put it plainly: I truly am really, really bad at exams.

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