Impending Exam: I am worried

Tuesday 2 May, 2017

This is a personal blog, which I haven’t written in a while.

I have an exam in a month’s time and I am very worried about it. I do not have the best track record with exams. I struggled to revise for my GCSEs, when I tried I did not take anything in, and when I didn’t try my mind was filled with everything but important information. When it wasn’t instinct to me, I did badly. When it involved maths, I did very badly.

My A levels, it didn’t matter how hard I tried, how many different ways I tried to revise – group revision, flash cards, write and recall, I went in to those exams knowing I knew this stuff in the back of my mind but couldn’t get my answers into order, and subsequently came out with a Two Ds and an E.

I swore off taking another exam again after that. I am no good at them and in my mind, I’ve recognised a limitation and done my best to stay within it. I don’t know what it is about them, or about my brain, but we have never worked well together and my results almost always reflected badly on my capabilities.  And now I have more health problems than I did back then, so I have more to battle against, in exam conditions. Which I will be sitting on very little sleep because I know for a fact I’ll be kept awake all night thinking through what questions I might face and going over how I might answer them, and all the things that might go wrong.

So when I say I am worried about this exam coming up, I’m not saying it lightly. This isn’t a plea for complements about my level of intelligence or knowledge on certain topics. I don’t want to hear “it’ll be fine” or that I “can do it”. I don’t necessarily want to be told it won’t be fine or I can’t do it, but I want acknowledgement that it might not be fine, because when it comes to exams, it just never is. I don’t want people to act as if I have nothing to worry about and that I’m being silly. I don’t care if this is a new me and a new course, and that my last experience with exams was years ago. If anything, that’s more reason for me to worry. My last exams were years ago, I was in the settings of exam preperation for the last few months of of 6th form and I don’t have that now, here, on my distance learning course as an adult and I can’t replicate it.

And if I don’t pass this exam, it’ll be two years worth of work on the line and I will have to take a resit in September, and if I fail the resit, the last two years will have gone to waste. Because whilst you can retake the year, I sure as hell am not repeating this module just to meet another exam at the end of it, and I’m no way dealing with the SFE for any longer than I have to.

You might be thinking, “AFJ, you’re putting the horse before the cart” and that might be so, but it’s hard not to when I’ll be sitting the first exam I’ll have sat in years and my health is nothing like it was back then, and I can’t see me passing this exam in those circumstances. I have memory problems from being tired all the time. I have always been bad with numbers, now I’m worse. I forget words in the middle of sentences. Because of me being tired, I don’t deal well with early mornings anymore outsde of insomnia bouts, and I flag again by either mid-morning or early afternoon. Just the travelling to the exam centre is going to have a toll on me.

I can construct a hell of an essay with the information I have learnt to hand, to read and double check details, and when it’s a good question to answer, I can do it quickly. But this will be an exam, I won’t be able to edit as I go along to re-structure my essay, I won’t have any resources to hand to refresh my memory and just the stress of having an hourly deadline will the situation harder for my body to deal with. I will have to dictate my answers to an ~emmanuensis~ which I haven’t needed to do since before my GCSEs (Or possibly during, I can’t remember if I had any scribes during my GCSEs but I remember my hand writing going very downhill during my geography exam) so that’s an extra element. And I know for a fact that even if I last the exam and I give decent enough answers, I will have to face the fall out my body will feel due to putting myself through that.

There is nothing good about this up and coming exam and I can’t emphasise this enough about how worried I am about it. I might know my stuff because I’ll have learnt it, but I might not be able to recall it on demand. I know for a fact that anything interesting I tell people, I sound like a fool who doesn’t know anything because my brain “vagues out” on specifics like dates and names of people.

And now for the biggest source of my frustation:

The Open University is meant to be the ~maverick~ university for those who, for whatever reason, can not or would prefer not to attend a regular “brick University”. It was meant to be open for everyone, no matter their personal circumstances. But in the last few years, they have been bringing themselves in line with other “mainstream” universities, it also means switching the EMAs to Exams. (Not to mention the expense, no more Educating Rita at the Open University!)

I have believed since I was 16 and sitting my GCSEs that all exams are, are memory tests. And they’re not even accurate memory tests, because evidence shows that stress affects memory and ability to convey information as accurately as we have learnt it, and exams are that stressful hardly anyone is able to do as well they would be able to in, for example, a relaxed conversation about the topic. So I really think switching EMAs to Exams really pull the rug out from under disabled students in a variety of ways, but especially for those of us who are unable to sit for long periods of time and have memory problems, whether nuerological or tiredness-induced. An EMA, which allows for well constructed arguments to be made when the student is at their best and a deadline of two to three weeks, I think is far superior to testing to see whether a student has grasped the concept, but hey, what do I know? I’m just a student.

If you have any practical advice, please feel free to suggest it.
If you have platitudes, you might mean well but I don’t want them.