What’s Different About University Exams?


As I prepare for the one exam of my first semester,  let me remind myself of how I felt after sitting my first university exams two years ago. 

Impersonal. That is how I would describe the difference between the exams of the past and the exam I sat today.

When you would walk into an exam hall at a-level, your teachers are there waiting to wish you luck and to offer some words of encouragement to stabalise those jumping nerves. The people who are sitting around you are your friends and you grin almost hysterically before the exam, knowing that they are all as nervous as you. You write your name on the paper and off you go!

Whereas at university, it is quite different. My exam did not even take place at a university building but instead a completely different, enormous hall had to be hired out to accommodate for the 1700+ students all taking thier exams at the same time. Of course, that is only a fraction of the total number of students the university has but it also means there is not much wishing of good luck prior to the exam. As you take your seat, you become simply a number that you write on your paper and you feel so minute in the grand scheme of things because when you look around, you see hundreds of people of all ages, all in the same boat as you but sitting there expressionless.

Your phone is right there with you. Yes it actually is, enclosed in a plastic wallet and placed under your desk. Halfway through the exam I realised I may have been stepping on it all this time so nudged it to the side. When you need anything in the exam, you as per the usual method, put your hand up and wait. However, at times it takes a while for an invigilator to notice your hand and it is at times like these that I wonder how easy it could be to cheat.

Another thing I found different was that all announcements were made via the speaker system but I must say, the sound quality was excellent. The echo was just right and I thought now would be a good time for the man to burst into song instead of repeating the same announcements over and over again. The microphone also meant when the time came for some exams to end, it caused many who were in a deep reverie of intellectual thought to jump a little in their seat. I would have been annoyed – if I had been one of those people.

You can also leave the exam at any time once you are 75 minutes into it and provided it is not the last 15 minutes. I know this rule has been in place for many exams but when you sit one that is three hours long then leaving early becomes an actual possibility rather than a mere fantasy.

So, two of these long exams left this week. See you on the other side!

A Worried Student

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16 thoughts on “What’s Different About University Exams?

  1. I think like all things, university exams just take getting used to. I remember being so scared for my first round of midterms. In my engineering program we have two rounds of midterms for each course, plus exams at the end of the semester. Last semester, this was the same for all 6 of my courses. It was really stressful; I think the first semester always is no matter what the year. But then you get back into “the groove” of studying, managing your time and figuring your habits out and it becomes easier. And you even start to figure out how a typical professor “thinks” and what they expect of you. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yep true. For me it’s a little different as I do English and so I had exams in my first year but none in my second. Then I had one minor one this semester, so if I were to get an exam next semester I would have to really work on my revision skills again!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is so true! I felt so much more nervous for university exams, it could be that it’s a higher level but also because of strange surroundings and sitting with people I’d never seen before! I would always be so worried I’d accidentally sat in the wrong exam because I had no idea who was in my class ๐Ÿ˜‚

    Liked by 1 person

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