Anatomy of a Mid-Term Freakout

Posted: June 24, 2010 in Uncategorized

It’s that time of the semester again: the mad dash to digest several weeks worth of material and regurgitate it out as something usable, also known as the Mid-Term Exam.

This is my second semester at USF, and my second round of midterms.  I got out easy in the Spring semester; there were only 2 midterms and neither was very difficult.  This semester however, I’m getting my ass beat.  While I would have thought that this summer semester wouldn’t be very difficult, I stand corrected.  I’m taking 9 credit hours this summer (it satisfies a requirement) in French II and Religion: Life After Death.  This religion course I picked turned out to be VERY writing intensive (it’s also an exit requirement for graduation).  We write at least 1000 or more words a week (which of course I write more, wordy shit that I am) in addition to sometimes reading 5 chapters out of several of the 8 books we have for this course.  The material is interesting and engaging, and the teacher is very attentive to the class.  However, with that said, let me recount the midterm yesterday.

One thing I hate about professors are those that do not specify what will be on an exam or else, they use an old midterm exam guide like this professor did.  There were many things on the study guide we hadn’t even covered yet, and there was no mention of a dreaded essay. She merely said to expect 60 multiple choice or true false questions.

Tuesday night, the day before the midterm, I got an email that said to be prepared for not one essay, but three of them, and they had to be 500 words EACH and we had an hour and thirty minutes to finish them.  Needless to say, I panicked. We have covered so much material in 5 weeks that it was starting to make me feel dizzy.  We’ve gone through Christianity (again) all the way to Taoist views on death and the afterlife, and everything else in between.  We’ve read 4 books already as well.  I figured those essays could be about ANYTHING at that point, and when you have no idea what to prepare for, you panic.

So, as the midterm began, I took my time working through the 36 multiple choice and true false questions that comprised section I.

The insanity of midterm preparation

That part didn’t take very long, and I ended with a 98 on it.  The second part, however, was much more complicated than I thought.   Three essays asking us to relate shamanism and ecstatic process to the movie Don Juan DeMarco, the book Tuesdays with Morrie and of all things, Dicken’s a Christmas Carol (which was the only movie I didn’t watch! I had 4 others to get through, and who hasn’t seen or read that story a thousand times?).  That will teach me to skip something I think I know well.

I had budgeted 30 min per essay to myself to ensure that I gave each the full attention to detail it needed, but upon seeing the question about Dickens, I had to change the order I wrote them in to give myself more time to think on the worst of the three.  Lets be clear here: I’m not very good at writing essays on the fly.  Previously, professors have always hinted as to what you should think about for the essay, so that you can prepare. In this case, she wanted to see who can do it quickly and make it sound intelligent and knowledgeable.  I think I succeeded at that.  My total word count for all the essays was nearly 1400, so I was only a trifle short on the suggested 1500.  I feel like at least two of the three were very strong, it is only that Christmas Carol essay that I’m uncertain of.

Today’s midterm is in French.  We’ve also covered a lot of material in that class as well, and I think I’ve been studying so long that my brain can’t switch back and forth very well right now.  I find that I am talking to myself in French, and this morning it was the first thought in my head when I got up to study: Preparez pour l’examen aujourd’hui.  I’ll be glad when this is over this afternoon. My brain is fried from day after day after day of studying.  That one also has an essay, about a recent trip we’ve taken somewhere.  At least this essay I’m not worried about, I have a good grasp of the language and it’s grammar and stupid endings people don’t pronounce. I’m reminded of a former Religion professor who said she gave up for that very reason – it just doesn’t make sense that they don’t say the whole word to her.  I’m starting to agree. The slight change in pronunciation from present to imparfait is barely noticeable unless you have a well trained ear.

I look forward to 2 o’clock just so I can get this exam over and done with.  The French Professor (ha, he’s younger than me by like 6 years!) never makes his exams that difficult unless he has just decided to be evil this term.  Mostly it is not comprehensive, it is on a the first 6 lecons we have covered so far, and most of that are the imperfect tense and reflexives verbs.  Luckily, I do not have to drive to campus to take my test, I’ve set up a proctor at the local library to administer it to me.  Given my history with completing his exams in 20 minutes, it seemed foolish to drive for an hour and fifteen minutes for something I’m only going to be on campus for that lasts no more than 30 minutes tops.  Yay me for thinking ahead this term!

Well, that’s it for me right now, back to studying for another 15 or 20 minutes, then it’s time to get ready to go.

When this day is over, I will be very glad indeed.

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