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Exams aren’t the be all and end all

From the age of around 7 we sit our first SAT exams, and from then on it’s a downhill slope. Each subsequent exam seems to have more weight; GCSEs, then A levels and then university – I won’t even mention year 3 finals.

As a first year student I keep being told ‘it’s only first year – just aim for 40 per cent’. Is that a good attitude to have though? Should I just enjoy this year as it’s the only one in which you can do anything you like? Some have the attitude that if you can’t do well in first year then how on earth will you cope with the second? What about the ‘foundation’ knowledge that seems to be learnt in first year – surely you can’t just skip past it.

Social media at the moment is filled with images and captions highlighting procrastination problems that are shared by what seems every student. Even while writing this I find myself flicking through Twitter and can’t help but agree with every tweet from The Uni Bible. So much is pinned on a two-hour exam and there is so much to be learnt for them but I wonder how many people actually see the use? University is about learning more than just the curriculum and what you need for the exam and yet I find myself getting frustrated when the lecturer doesn’t tell me exactly what I need to know.

Family friends always say that A levels are the hardest part and that’s over with. Although I’m not in a position yet in life to judge that, why would we come to university if that were true? Everyone has picked a subject they find interesting and enjoy it (maybe reconsider if you do not feel either way about your subject). Yet the things enjoyed most about Uni are the friends, parties, nights out and random events throughout the year.

Why should exams halt all this enjoyment? People revise in different ways – there are those of us who revise little by little far in advance and those of us who cram everything the night before and hope it all sticks overnight to be forgotten the next afternoon. Both ways must work because we got to university somehow.

Some people get anxious and stressed whilst others don’t bat an eyelid under exam pressure. Either way the exam period seems all about just that – exams. Sure it probably should be but wouldn’t a relaxed attitude produce better results? As a usually stressed reviser I made the decision this year to do the same as every year so far and to steadily revise throughout the term, so I have nothing to worry about…

Even having done that I still find more that I don’t know every time I look at a textbook which just creates the dread of all that’s left. I find myself wondering if it’s better to just cram! Instead of worrying though I have decided to take the attitude of a few around me; even if left to the last minute it can be done, stress won’t help, there is more to life than exams and that it’s too late to change revision tactics now. Instead of dread and stress this semester I have decided to enjoy it.

It sounds strange to say that but I still plan to see friends everyday and enjoy the hopefully improved Cardiff weather. Philosopher Omar Khayyam said ‘Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.’ Although there is more to life than exams, and everyone would definitely have less stress in them without them, they are a huge part of university so why not try and be happy preparing for them too.

Hannah Smith

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