University exams: what I’ve experienced so far



I know what intimidated me as I was entering university: exams. I wondered . . . How hard would they be? What kind of formats would be used? What was a bell curve?

I still don’t know what a bell curve is, but I can tell you about what I’ve experienced as a student so far. Here is what I’ve learned in my first two years of university.

In first year, exams are easy, but not that easy. Is that confusing? What I mean to say is that most freshman classes are about foundations: review, skills development, basics. Professors are preparing you for the rest of university, not blowing your mind with Confucian philosophy and obscure political theories.

Don’t be mistaken. You’ll still have to work hard. Your grades will probably drop as well. But you’ll get the hang of it.

International studies and politics courses usually have essay questions & short answers on exams, not just memory work. These essays emphasize concepts.

As a student writing an essay exam, your role is to identify relevant concepts to an exam question and then to make connections between them. Your ability to memorize will be important, but not in the way it might have been important in your high school. Specifics are less important. 

Overarching themes, networks of knowledge, big ideas. That’s where it’s at.

Average exam length is 2 to 3 hours. That may sound like a lot, but it flies! Personally, I get hungry all the time, so I bring snacks to exams to keep my energy level up.

Smoothie photo cred: Stefan G. C.

Full year international studies & politics courses have yearly or bi-yearly exams. However, other courses (e.g. psychology, natural science, modes of reasoning) stress memorization of specific information so  they have several unit tests throughout the year, rather than one or two exams.

You can expect your profs to be merciful! When I came to university, I was expecting my professors to nail me on exams during my first year. Instead, they prepared me for my exams, telling me what to expect, and giving fair evaluations. I got everything I needed to do well.

So there you have it. University exams aren’t so bad! And I still haven’t mentioned the best thing about them. They are the precursor to 4 glorious months of summer vacation.

Questions? Leave them in the comments! I want to know what you think 🙂


the "Love List"

I finished my exams on Monday! It’s a bizarre feeling to be left without a schedule, with hours available for pursuing the things I’ve been leaving on the back-burner for a while.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how I use my time. I was inspired by an article about this thing called the “love list.” The idea is to write down the things that you love doing – that bring you joy and satisfaction. Then, you make another list of things that you actually spend your time doing. After that, you evaluate how you’re spending your time.
Just a few things off the top of my head:
I need more: face-to-face, I need less: email/text | more: outside, less: inside | more: playing music, less: YouTube | more: real-book reading, less: article-surfing
I guess there will always be things that we have to do, so the challenge is cutting out the unnecessary time-sucking soul-draining things, and transplanting better things into their places. It’s kind of like surgery, but without the blood.
Thinking about your time and the way you spend it can be a good way to prepare for university. There will be a lot of opportunities, so make sure to choose the ones that will feed your soul!
Play sports? Join a team or house league.
Love singing? Make sure you head out to open-mic nights at Lunik and think about starting your own radio show.
Need to write? Write for ProTem or take an English course if you’re not an English major.
One last caveat: You won’t be able to do everything, so aim to do a few things well.
P.S. Spring is coming into full bloom at Glendon! Just a few shots I’ve taken on campus:
Intense cherry blossoms next to York Hall. Gorgeous.
My favourite tree at Glendon.
To me, it looks like something out of a Group of Seven Painting.
I’m a morning person.
I love walking to the quad early in the day as the sun is shining through the branches and mist.
P.P.S. I was sort of hoping you wouldn’t scroll all the way down here, but now that you have… sorry. For my absence. (My head is hanging in shame.) I kind of went into exams/studying/surviving mode for a while. I promise to be posting more regularly. Ciao!