Should You Stay or Go? Writing Exams in...

Should You Stay or Go? Writing Exams in University and College

by Kathleen Orth
Jobs People Do | JobsPeopleDo.com

When you ask yourself this question, you may be thinking of relationships, moving away to go to school or debating on taking a new job; you might not be thinking of exams. When you get to college or university, you may spend about 120 hours sitting in exams. When I started university, I’d see people get up and leave an exam as soon as they were finished. I would think to myself: Why is that person finishing so early? Okay, maybe you think this won’t apply to you. Many times it did not apply to me, but sometimes, it did. The first time I finished an exam early, I opted to stay until “my time was up,” and thereafter, I never left an exam early. So, why stay? Later, I could articulate a reason: once I got out of that door, it was over. I realized later that I was paying for the full three hours of exam time, and that I should always use the time wisely.

Staying may mean: Not giving up. While writing a second-year psychology exam, I did not know the answer to two questions. I spent several minutes reading the exam, the questions and my answers to the questions, and then discovered clues to help me find the answers to those two questions. If I left early, I would have never discovered these things. I didn’t just stay for the few marks; I stayed to use the time I was given in the best way I could. If I got up and left, I really would have been shortchanging myself.

It takes time and practice to become skilled at reading and analyzing questions during an exam. We pay for the time. It’s part of the tuition fee. No one will reimburse you for the time you don’t use. If you don’t show up for a class – you don’t get any money back.

You must learn to stick it out during an exam and focus. Any small activity can be a distraction. Sometimes, there are big distractions. One tough exam experience took place first thing Monday morning. We wrote in a gym. The heat had been off all weekend, and no one had turned it on. The temperature was freezing when we left the exam; thank goodness I had my winter coat with me. Many others had left their coats outside in the hall, and were not allowed back out to get them. It’s a rule – once you are in, you’re in. Once you are out, you’re out. In mentioning this, remember to always be prepared for the unexpected.

Writing exams is a study in itself and there are many tips for getting through an exam successfully, but it takes practice. You usually have three hours to totally focus on your paper. You paid for the time. There’s a saying, “The reward of patience is patience.” Stay or go? Here’s hoping you find the few small rewards attached to staying.

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