The Magic of Exam Time

The longer I’m in college, the more I realize that I love exam time. Don’t get me wrong, it is stressful and intense. I’m not trying to say I’m like those stereotypic nerds TV loves to depict as enjoying nothing more than studying. I just love everything that comes with exams. Suddenly clothing goes from a fashion statement to everyone wearing whatever is comfiest. It goes from jeans and nice shirts to sweatpants and blankets. There’s also junk food everywhere. People need that sugar rush to help them power through and I’m a big fan of eating candy, cookies and other desserts all week long.

Exam room at University of Melbourne

Exam room at University of Melbourne

The best part for me though is how people change. Somehow amidst the stress, lack of sleep and malnutrition people get friendlier. This is the magic of exam time. This is the time of wishing each other good luck, helping classmates with difficult concepts and spending hours talking in the dining hall to avoid work for just a little bit longer. I’m glad to have found that same sense of community that I love about Whitman at University College too.

Exams are quite different at the University of Melbourne. For the most part they are two hours long like at Whitman, but these are worth 50% or more of the final grade. The strong effect these tests have on my grade would stress me out more if I didn’t have insane amount of time to study. The University of Melbourne gives an entire week off to study (it’s called SWOT VAC – Study WithOut Teaching Vacation) and then exams are spread out over the course of three weeks. I happened to end up with one exam a week meaning that I have seven plus days between each exam to prepare. What a change from one dead day before a single week of exams! The other students here think the reason the abroad students are so relaxed right now is that we’re not worried about finals since it’s all pass/fail for us. For me (and I think many of the others) we’ve just never had this much time to study. I personally don’t quite know what to do with it especially since my classes are basically just understanding and retaining concepts, many of which I’ve learned before.

Well that’s also the silver lining. Since I really don’t need to be studying that whole time, I can go off on adventures like Escape Room,

Vegetarian and Vegan Food Truck Night (where I ate amazing “chicken” satay) and roadtrips. With two and a half weeks left there’s still so much to see and I’m thankful for the extra time to spend with my friends here before I have to say goodbye.

Food at Vegetarian and Vegan Food Truck Night

Food at Vegetarian and Vegan Food Truck Night

Before I wrap up, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk a bit about the actual exam process in this post. Exams at UniMelb are hosted in huge buildings with hundreds of students from a variety of different classes taking their tests all at once. You may only bring in pencils, erasers, clear water bottles and sometimes calculators. Phones (switched off), wallets and keys can be brought in as well, but must be stored under the desk. Watches have to be removed and placed in a plastic bag on your desk. You sit at the desk number assigned to you (I was 274) and place your student ID card in the top corner so they know it’s really you taking the exam. Over the 2 hours of test taking and 15 minutes of reading time, proctors will roam through the aisles spot checking calculators, examining student IDs and collecting our signed forms that promise we won’t cheat. They also placed clocks everywhere — I counted 5 visible from my seat. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a room with that many people (at least 400) that was also so silent. It felt a lot like being back in high school taking standardize tests. It was interesting the first time, but I’m not sure I’d enjoy this set up every time. I better get back to work now. I have one essay and two more exams left. So close!

Over and Out,


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