Posts tagged university
Posts tagged university
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?
Had some pretty poor essay results to day, so I stuck this together to try and make myself pull the proverbial finger out. Why have I put it up here? So the good people of the internet can remind me to stick to it.
Oxford Manifesto (kind of… you’ve made one for films, why not here?)
FFS, focus! Don’t keep looking at Cracked.com articles, stop re-watching YouTube videos you’ve watched a hundred times, stop staring at your Steam list not playing any game just because they don’t work the way they do on the adverts or you didn’t make them. Distractions are all well and good, but only when there’s nothing for them to distract you from.
Less thinking. Remember at the beginning of your year, when you never jumped around simply because you weren’t sure what other people would think when they heard you? You got quite a serious amount of reading done then, even went to the library to work a couple of times. Getting back to that is no bad thing; thinking distracts you from actually writing the essay. If you have a good idea for the essay through thinking, write it bloody down, don’t just keep skipping about.
Get into the reading. Face it, you actually like the subject you do, as evidenced by the fact you chose it. When you actually pick up the texts you’re supposed to read, you find them enlightening and thought-provoking. Its only getting into them where you have the problem. Once you’re there, you’re fine.
Stop boasting about procrastination. The aim is not to reach a certain word limit, nor is it to do as much as possible with as little effort as possible. Its a stupid policy, especially if you get this worked up about a mark that is basically average. If you want to do well, read widely, read thoroughly, and then transfer that to your essay in good time to get it in. Just because everyone else goes on about doing their essay at one in the morning. You’re not them.
Talk to people a bit more. You are at your most relaxed when your not talking to yourself in your head. Social interaction helps you get your thoughts out in the open, and what’s more, it creates friends. Half of university is about doing stuff, not staring at the laptop and moping.
Get a schedule and stick closely to it. That’s what you were going to do, until you couldn’t be bothered to make writing a schedule part of your schedule. It never got done. What about all those minor things? Student loan details, bass practice, tidying the place, getting yourself a relationship? Whilst these vary in amounts of effort, and some take a bit of time, you’ll greatly increase the chance of getting them done if you actually plan when to do them. Outline which hours in the day are available and which would be most productive for essay writing, or chores or whatever, and then follow it. You’ll find you might have far more free time than you think.
And finally; if you put “Consider” in your essay one more time, I will shoot you in the leg.
As should be blatently obvious to everyone operating on GMT, I always seem to submit my posts at about one in the morning, or possibly earlier if Im feeling paticularly adevnturous or lucid. I’d like to think this is because I am at my most enlightened. Really, its just because I waste my entire bleedin’ day.
I spend my time on pointless games, pointless books or, worst of all, “think”. My technique of “thinking” involves jumping backwards and forwards around my room, generally throwing something about at the same time. This weird ritual, for some weird reason I’d love a psychologist to explain to me someday, allows me to descend in to whatever mental fantasy I like. And I do men “descend; I merge into these brief little constructions that can center around films, television shows, stories or computer games I’ve created in my head, future professions I see myself in, paths in life I’ve not taken, etc. etc. On the plus side, I maintain a ridculously vivid and surreal imagination (I once heard some one say on the subject of Avatar, “how does James Cameron come up with this stuff?” I briefly wondered if they were joking.) On the downside, its ruined my life.
Its not uncommon for me to spend hours of every day in these bouts of “thinking”. Time can seem to race past as I jump around in my reverie. What is more, its painfully addictive. I look up at the clock and think “just five more minutes of thinking and I’ll be done.” Which, as you can guess, is never the case. I have never spoken to anyone else who’s done this - its not exactly an easy subject to broach - but many people, mostly writers I suspect, would confess to having done something similiar. As a child. I feel like I’m playing a constant game of ‘the floor is made of lava’.
Well, this never bodes well for my academic work. Had I enough hours where I had absolutely nothing to do, essays might eventually work themselves out. But “thinking” always offers me something to do, so in between my other wasteful activities, I can imagine myself as the subject of the current novel I’m reading.
And the assignment just sits there. Boding.
Which leads me to why I write mostly late at night. It seems to be only in this perod, where I’m too exhausted to jump about, too mentally active to sleep. Here is when I generally write out my thoughts or ideas, but they rarely come to much. Its also when I do a fair number of my essays, hence the title of this post; I’ve just learnt an essay I haven’t done over the break may well have to be in for tomorrow. See above. But hell, I’m damn sure I’m not the first one in history to be late with an essay, and I generally get through everything eventually. Given that I’ve written all of this out in my current state shows I’m perfectly capable of reeling off a couple of thousand words.
I just wish I could do it at two in the afternoon.