Don’t fret your final exam prep, the tests could be much worse

By Phil Collins

Well it’s that special time of year again. The snow has fallen, the streets are icy and everyone is hiding behind textbooks in preparation for finals. Students are now doing “The Final Countdown,” if you will. This unfortunate ritual has to be navigated before we can really enjoy the holiday season and subsequently forget everything we spent a week obsessing over. While you’re trying to decipher your notes from a lecture from two months ago that you were half-asleep/half-taking notes during, I’m going to tell you exactly why we don’t have it so bad here when it comes to finals week.

I spent my sophomore year abroad in Nottingham, England. The whole academic system functions differently, but I’m going to focus solely on finals here. First off, the period begins with a reading WEEK. Remember reading day? It was Saturday (who are they kidding?). The University of Nottingham gave us an entire week off from classes for the purpose of preparing for final exams. Before you start calling for the gravy train to roll into Champaign-Urbana, turn this one over in your head for a minute. Why would a University give students a reading week?

I’ll tell you why. Finals are about a thousand times worse in England, mostly because they are worth so much more of the total grade. In one case, I actually took a final that was worth 100 percent of my grade. That reading week and finals week together easily make the Top-Five-Most-Nerve-Racking-Times-In-My-Life list.

Let me tell you a little bit about taking a test that determines your entire semester’s grade. The class was called Human Behaviour and Ecology, a level two biology class. I did not belong in that class. I’m pretty much the opposite of a biology major and hadn’t had anything like a biology class since high school. What I learned is that when you go to college in England, you only take classes in your major (wow, there’s a novel idea.) So, that means everyone in that class was a second year biology student, obviously myself excluded.

I was way behind in this class before the first lecture. It didn’t help that there were no graded assignments during the semester to clue me in to this. There were only reading assignments and little discussion of them. So when I sat down to take that exam two Januaries ago, I faced a very grim reality. Luckily, I managed to say enough in the essay portion to pass the exam, and thus pass the class. It’s never a fun situation when passing a class is tied so closely to a single piece of work.

I think I can safely say that of the eight final exams/papers I had to do while I was out there, none of them were worth less than 40 percent of the total grade. A paper that is worth 85 percent isn’t much more fun than an exam worth 100 percent. So enjoy your 20 percent and 30 percent exam weighting.