Sunday, June 24, 2012

Examining these exams

Oh, Oxford exams. Ye of little educational content, much strategising and ridiculously amount of Traditions-with-a-capital-'T'. Some said Traditions are ridiculously antiquated and dysfunctional - seriously, why must we write these essays by hand? It only induces great bodily pain while diminishing the quality of our work. Others are slightly bothersome but generally harmless (see: sub fusc). And then there are those which I think are totally awesome.

Case in point? Trashings. No, not the "let's-get-trashed!!!" post-Exam drinking binges. (Though these also happen rather often as well). I'm referring to this great Tradition of waiting for your friends behind the Exam School, balloons and confetti in hand, so that you can throw everything at them when they emerge triumphant from having completed their last exam. No seriously, there's a barricade and screaming and everything involved.

The crowds gathered on Merton Street, waiting for their finisher friends.
(Yes, 'finisher' is totally a word here.)

Having been to a couple of Trashings (no, I have nothing else to do - what is this revising that you speak of?), I can say that it's a lovely and heart-warming thing to do. Finishing exams is a big deal, no matter your degree. For us taught-master students, it represents the culmination of a year of studies and, oh, only about 100% of our degree. But for undergrads though, and get this, last-year students write Final Honour School (FHS) exams which account for the entirety of their bachelor's degree! No really, they write something like 9 exams in 2 weeks, so understandably it is a BIG DEAL when they're done with their last one.

Trashings occupy a spectrum of, erm, messiness. Compare and contrast J's, on
 the left, v. A's, on the right. (Yes, they duct-taped him to a bench. Don't ask.)

But how does one know who is a finisher (or a finishing finalist for that matter), you ask? Why, never fear my friends, for Oxford has another Tradition for that exact purpose! Indeed, allow me to introduce you to the carnation system. Basically, exam-sitters pin a different-coloured carnation flower to the lapel of their sub fusc, depending on how which of their exams they're about to take. White for the first exam, red for the last one, and pink for all the ones in between. Oh, and apparently the Tradition dictates that you're not supposed to buy your carnations yourself, so there's a lot of meaningful glances and not-so-subtle suggestions taking place near florists all over Oxford in May and June.

Oh look, exam carnations held in an RBS cup with an
terribly appropriate tagline written on it. Ha bloody hah.

So what do I make of Oxford exams, so far? Well, for one the timetable is both a curse and a blessing. One of my coursemates had four exams in four days, which sounds and was predictably hellish. On the other hand, my own examination schedule is quite spread out, which does me quite some time to study in between. But it also means that I'm pretty much at the end of my rope right now. Two exams down, one more to go this coming Thursday - but I feel completely burned out and utterly unmotivated. This will be fun. Or not.

The face of exhaustion, as demonstrated by A & A & myself after our
first exam. (And yes, I am carrying my sub fusc gown here - what a rebel!)

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