Now that the Christmas holidays are finally over, here is a perfectly timed blog on how to deal with exams in University of Bologna. I say perfectly timed because unlike GU at UNIBO exam period starts January…yes it sucks I know…As I have finally sobered up enough to get some work done and begin 2016 I will give you some hopefully useful tips on how to survive the exam period.
I already had two exams in December (which I can proudly say that I’ve passed) so that technically makes me an expert and I can absolutely give you competent dubious advice. An important thing to note is that most of the exams at UNIBO, in most departments, are oral and before you start convulsively spinning your eyes left and right with confusion let me assure you that you have nothing to be afraid of.
Let me clear it up: for the normal students oral exams are a nightmare because: he or she is obliged to learn and understand all of the material that has been studied; to have done his or her additional research; to have memorized all the sources; and be able to talk and discuss about them freely. Thankfully Erasmus students are not ‘normal’ students so let’s take a moment of silence and be grateful for that!
As guests of the University, let me get this as clear as possible, nobody expects much from you, in fact nobody notices you at all….No, don’t get all offended by it! Erasmus students come and go all the time and it’s up to you to get noticed and get involved with a subject! But trust me, not being taken seriously sometimes is the best thing that can happen to you. Studying in a language that you are not that familiar with is damn hard and most of all it takes up a lot of your time. A simple thing as reading your textbook becomes a whole damn endless adventure involving a lot of headaches and exclamations of the type “Oh God, oh God what am I doing here will this nightmare never end Goooooood! ”- and this for 4 subjects per semester.
Nonetheless doing oral exams is the lesser worse for us Erasmus students because, look at it that way-it is nothing more than a one-on-one conversation with the professor about his subject. All that is required from you is to show that you have read the main textbook, that you have some kind of interest for the subject and to tell what you have learned in the simplest way possible. Not to mention you can take advantage of the situation and use tools like: hand gestures, drawings, English, and if you’re lucky even textbooks to try and explain the knowledge that you have collected. It is really as easy as that and the most important things to remember are simple and you already know them:
1.Frequent the classes-that way you will already know half of the material and it will help with your comprehension of the language. While you are at it you can make a friend or two in class as well, exchange notes with people and talk with them if you don’t understand something. Chances are you’ll be doing mostly firs year subjects where all students are still trying to be very attentive and persistent about their studies. They will gladly help out if you ask them to even though they are probably as confused as you are, but hey, at least you’re in it together!
2.Don’t start studying one week before the exam because you just won’t make it. If you’re not studying in English but in Italian, like me, chances are you will definitely overestimate your abilities to study in another language. Your brain needs time to assimilate the amount of information that you want to just pour in it otherwise you will explode! What you need to do is to start early without putting too much stress on yourself-like for example to try and revise your notes at the end of each week-it does miracles, trust me!
3.Don’t waist too much time on vocabulary and on memorizing too many terms (unless your discipline really requires it of course) because you will surely mix up everything at the end. Professors require from you to understand the general concepts and ideas and you should make sure to get them in your head in a way that you will be able to explain them.
4.A comfortable thought is that all exams can be retaken more than one time. It is unpleasant to leave exams hanging all year long- its best to get them out of your way as soon as possible but if you just have too much on your plate all in one time you have the chance to postpone them for a bit.
5.And last but not least relax! There is nothing to be afraid of. If you get in with a positive attitude and a smile you will get the same in return. Professors are people too!
Now it’s time to put my own advice to practice and start studying. Happy New Year to all of you my fellow classmates! 2016 is all ours , we will dominate it!