Friday, 21 June 2013

A230 After the Exam

This time last Thursday I was sitting in a dressing room at Rothesay Pavilion, furiously scribbling out everything I could remember about the poetry text I'd selected to write about for the first question. The exam on the 13th (thankfully not a Friday!) was the culmination of a nine month course with the Open University known as A230, or Reading and Studying Literature.

My last exam was on (the now defunct) U211, Exploring the English Language, course and I had sat that in Glasgow (at the concert hall) with about twenty or thirty people sitting the same course. This year was slightly different. As I live on an island, making travelling to exams a little tricky, I was allowed to sit it at a local venue; that being the Pavilion where I have performed on several occasions with the local drama group. In a way it was quite nice to be sitting in the big dressing room there because I have many happy memories of rehearsals and hurried costume changes there.

What made it slightly less nice was the fact that I was a) sitting an exam, and b) the only person sitting an exam that day.

Imagine sitting in an exam room. The silence, the ticking clock, the invigilator sitting at the front of the room keeping a careful eye on you, the rustling papers and scratching pens of your fellow students. Now take away those students. I was the only one in the room rustling and scratching.

It did make me feel rather self-conscious. Particularly when I stretched my leg about halfway through the exam and my knee gave an almighty crack. A little bit distracting in an exam room full of people; slightly mortifying when you can't pretend that someone else's body parts are protesting.

Photo from BBC.co.uk
Where the dressing room is at the back of the building meant I had a background soundtrack of the children playing outside at the local nursery. They were laughing and doing that happy screaming children thing which might have been a distraction for some people, but in an otherwise silent room I quite welcomed it. It wasn't particularly loud and it made for some nice white noise which actually helped me to focus on the text.

The exam paper itself wasn't that bad. I'm reserving judgement until I actually get my results back but I felt it went okay. The first section was an analysis of either a play, poem or piece of prose, the extract being given to you. The second and third were questions looking at the themes of given texts from the course. As we were given the texts that would be covered in each of the questions in advance (though not the questions themselves) I'd picked which questions I was going to answer before I even went into the exam.

My usual exam technique is to read the paper as soon as I get in and select the questions I'm going to answer, so I was able to dispense with that this time around and get straight down to answering the questions. I had considered revising one main question to answer and one back-up but abandoned this in favour of knowing each subject really well, as opposed to potentially missing points which could lead to me not having enough information to talk about either.

Of course I'd 'budgeted' for time at the beginning to read the whole exam paper and so by jumping straight into answering the first question I was finished with it after forty-five minutes. I was a bit shaky with this one at the start (I chose to analyse a poetry extract) but the more I wrote, the more I found to say.

The second one I could probably have written about for the whole three hours. Despite finishing the first question earlier than I'd planned to I was careful not to write about the second one for longer than I'd budgeted for (about 45-50 minutes). My answer for this one was the longest of the three because I just found that there was so many things I could say about it and I think I made the most coherent argument here.

The final question stumped me a little bit. It didn't seem to match up to any of the themes that I'd revised and I couldn't decide exactly what angle I wanted to approach it from (unlike the second question which I figured out straight away). This answer was shorter but I just kept on pulling things out that I could talk about so hopefully some of it is correct.

I ended up with about twenty minutes to spare at the end and so I carefully went back through my answers and managed to catch some 'typos' (what do you call handwritten mistakes where you've written completely the wrong words?) and also went over some words I'd not written so clearly. I don't want to lose any marks for the marker not being able to read my handwriting. I ended up finishing about five minutes before the end and just told the invigilator that I was done.

Probably the worst part of the exam was the fact that about ten minutes after it started I started kind of needing the loo, despite going before I went in. Of course the more I thought about it, the worse I needed to pee and a couple of times I considered asking to go to the toilet, but I was worried about not having enough time at the end of the exam.

My next, and final, course will be Children's Literature which doesn't have an exam, but I don't think I'm going to miss not having one too much. I'm glad I've got this one out the way and suddenly I feel like I've got so much free time. Between Thursday afternoon and Sunday I managed to knit a foot tall Scottish bagpipe playing scarecrow (I'll show him off in a future blog post), sewed on his face and got a fair chunk of his tartan trousers done, as well as reading about fifteen chapters of A Dance With Dragons and half a film magazine. Oh and I played The Sims and caught up with a knitting forum I haven't been on in years.

But it won't be long before I start feeling like I need to be studying again. I'll be registering for my next course in the next few weeks and buying some of the books I'll need to read for that (I already own a couple of them) and I'll soon be enjoying getting my teeth stuck into essay writing and stuff again!

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