Posts tagged ramblings
Posts tagged ramblings
Man, who came up with exams as an adequate way of testing people’s knowledge in any subject?
I have now finally finished my English and History prelims, meaning that, unlike every other History student, I am free for an extra day. However, I’ve spent a lot of time helping others with their revision. Why they’re taking my advice I have no idea, I’m hardly diligent in the work department. What I want to express is that when I say exams are actually a really strange way of assessing ability, it is not just a selfish complaint, or an excuse for my own inability to do them all well.
Exams are not their to test your knowledge, that much seems certain. They ask you only a small selection of questions on very specific aspects of your subject, many of which are picked by the candidate themselves. What is more, because some themes are almost guaranteed to crop up, teachers and tutors go out of their way to try and have you revise those certain themes in preparation.
They are not a test of knowledge, but a test of exam school. The marks they give you are a numerical representation of how well you’ve looked over your notes, or how well you’ve crammed the night before. Or your sense of timing. There’s something about having only an hour to perform that creates an erroneous sense of pressure and expectation. Oxford academics constantly go on about how university is an opportunity to study what you find interesting, to expand your mind and think in different ways. Then they give you a list of objectives to do within a time limit. It goes completely against their own philosophy. I’m never going to have to write an essay on the economic policy of Offa in an hour. What’s the point?
And the real kicker? They actually make people worse. Timed essays cause people to panic, which to leads to time spent panicking, which means less time is spent actually writing anything. What is more, exams are built up with such a sense of impending doom that the accompanying sense of dread occupies the students mind, squeezing out whatever knowledge might be there. This only makes the student doubt themselves further, and the vicious circle continues rolling into the abyss of self-deprecation.
Exams are not success stories. They are more akin to theatrical performances than real life situations; the build up to the big day, the endless rehearsals, and benefiting those with confidence as much as those with skill. To those taking exams, do not let them get to you. They have been exclusively designed to mess with your head, so don’t act as they want you to. Remember, they are not the be-all and end-all representation of how intelligent or creative you are.
Now, if only the rest of academia would wake up and see that.
It appears my first year is coming to an end at Oxford. It’s been… intriguing. It’s been an entirely new environment - new people, new living space, new topics for chat, new ways of learning. I won’t lie - to begin with, I was incredibly homesick. I’d been uprooted from my natural habitat, and anything that provided some kind of connection to home nigh on brought tears. But I’ve also learnt a few things about myself.
Suffice to say, relationship building is as much a key part of university as the actual subject. Reworking all your friendships from the ground up is the stuff of nightmares. It’s the first day we never really wanted to enncounter again. But, strangely, it appears to be the kind of situation I excel in. When people don’t know me, I feel that I can be anything. I could create an entirely new image for myself, a different life. That’s never the case of course, but it’s how it starts out.
Oxford particularly has given me an odd base from which to work on. I’ve always been a bit of an outsider (a close-to-arrogant opinion of myself, I’m sure) but here I’m just like everyone else. Not average neccessarily, just more part of the group. And it’s given me a lot of insight to myself.
And do you know what? It turns out I’ve become a bit of an advisor. I’ve never found my self giving out relationship advice. Hell, I’m the last person I’d take such advice from. Yet it’s beeen happening a lot. I’ve helped with other personal issues as well, but this year has been particularly hectic in terms of relationships for some people, and I’ve found my self in the role of consoler and “shoulder to cry on”.
Its not a role I would have expected.
Generally, I am not exactly your go-to agony aunt. I’ve always been too distant, too separated from the group. It’s not that people wouldn’t listen to me, it just always seemed there was someone better or closer at hand. Someone who would have more understanding. I just sat back and try to absorb some good life experience. But here, where everyone is just a couple of doors down, it’s entirely different. Does that say something about me and my nature? Or is it purely a result of the situation, and that I will immediately revert back to my normal reclusive self as soon as I get home?
And if I supposedly give such advice, why can’t I take it myself?
It appears I start a lot of my posts with such a statement these days. Hell, its the noise I make at the beginning of every one of my thoughts. Why? I used to think it was a pondering kind of noise, the kind you make when you’re deciding what to have for lunch or what shoes to where or whether to shout at the bastards outside your window for coming back to the accomodation drunk at three in the morning.
Now, I’m not so sure.
I’ve always been a ponderer. Even my friends noticed it; they’d snap their fingers in front of me as I stared off into the horizon of those weird, purple walls in the sixth-form common room. Everyone has those moments, I guess, where something that doesn’t even exist holds them rapt. But they happen a lot for me. I don’t know why. Maybe because I always find something in that middle distance to look at.
To all those who have seen me zone out in the middle of one of their conversations, I apologise. It wasn’t that you had nothing interesting to say, it certainly wasn’t that you bored me. Its just who I am. I am a thinker first and foremost. I’ve always considered my imagination my greatest asset, and sometimes it gets the better of me.
Maybe one day I’ll be able to put it to good use. For now, it really just serves as a distraction. I like my thoughts, don’t get me wrong - I even write them down occasionally and no-one is more surprised than I am for their contents. I just wished they wouldn’t ambush me on a walk out in the meadow, or at a meal with friends.
Its so difficult to explain that pondering noise and that vacant stare away.
Why can’t I write my thoughts down? I would like to think that my fingers can’t really move across the keyboard quick enough to keep up with my head, but of late I’m starting to doubt whether I have anything of worth to write. Sure, for some people posting what they had for breakfast is as natural to them as eating said breakfast, but I feel I couldn’t articulate what I want to say in any format that would seem appropriate to anyone except me.
Take for example my storyline ideas. I’ve recently become very interested in the film industry – I have downloaded scriptwriting software, starting becoming familiar with editing and have applied for work experience at BBC film. I have endless ideas in my head for storylines for movies ranging from indie on shoestring budgets to huge blockbusters. The thing is, I feel all of them would seem surreal at best to anyone who doesn’t get my imagination. This probably sounds hugely arrogant from the reader’s point of view - “You couldn’t possibly understand my genius because you are not in possession of as incredible an imagination as myself.” Its a little more than self-centred, self-deprecation though.
The fact is, I doubt my ability to do almost anything. The only exceptions to this seem to be acting (which I’ve done a fair bit of) and possibly poetry. This has two major effects. Firstly, I do myself down at every opportunity. I suspect it becomes a little annoying to anyone who knows me – many of my sentences are punctuated by “know”, “I”, and “can’t”. The other is that I can come across as a bit of a praise whore. Any time I am actually complimented or praised for something I have done, I tend to try and squeeze it out for as long as possible in order to prop up my inner deflated confidence.
When it comes to ideas or storylines or theories or whatever, the fact is I don’t think I’m better than anyone else. In fact, I’m probably pretty shocking. However, this opinion may solely be a product of that deflated confidence I mentioned earlier. The real issue is that it acts as a fabulous disincentive for me to do anything. There’s an old saying that goes along the lines of “If you’ve never failed, you’ve never tried” and the fact that I don’t want to fail as I suspect I will, I don’t try. And that in turn means I don’t then take that first step to actually writing something, or speaking my mind, or one of a thousand things that might actually result in something worthwhile.
Then again, I might just be lazy. That’s also a possiblity.