Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Both Thing 1 and Thing 2 finished their end-of-semester exams today; Thing 1 wrote a History exam, and Thing 2 wrote English. They are both good students who go to class and hand in assignments and keep up, so the exams didn't really have them freaked out too much.

I never minded writing exams all that much, except when I didn't have a clue what was going on in class, which was usually confined to math and science and the like. And thankfully, I gave up those subjects as soon as I was let; believe me, everyone was relieved when I finally finished first-year Human Biology and completed my science requirement. (Human Biology was one of the easier first-year science credits, along with first-year geology, also known as "Rocks for Jocks", because all of the football and rugby teams took it en masse.) My TAs were really worried I might actually like Human Biology, because I contributed mightily to the tutorial discussions. I knew that was the only way I was going to pass that class, on the "participation" aspect.
The exam for Human Biology asked a lot of questions which confounded me; I tended to get my neurons and nefrons mixed up, which, if you knew what was going on in Human Biology, you would know that there is a big difference. (One has to do with your kidneys, and one has to do with your brain, so you can see where my problem lay.)
I tended to like exams where the answers were NOT black and white, right or wrong answers. I preferred exams where there were large grey areas, in which I could talk my way around, thereby having a fighting chance at getting it right. I know lots of people who like cut and dried exams, but they are probably not Irish.

I once wrote an exam for a History course called "20th Century Asia", that had one question: "Explain the Vietnam War. You have three hours." That was a tough one, I honestly thought I might run out of ink. Luckily, my right hand went into a debilitating spasm at about the 2:45 mark, and I had to stop writing.

I also wrote a Political Science exam for a course I had stopped going to about halfway through the semester. It was a "Canadian Foreign Policy" course, and if that wasn't boring enough, the professor had the personality of a stop sign. Seriously, that man was criminally boring...."and then, in 1957, the Parlaimentary commission set up a committee to discuss the possibility of a meeting to negotiate forming a board to discuss a trade deal with Guatamala. But only if Uraguay is okay with that." I stopped going to the lectures, but kept up with the reading, which I thought might be okay for getting through the course. I was wrong. Remember how I said I liked to be able to talk my way around an exam? I really should have said "especially when I know what I'm talking about." That exam was a bitch, but I did pass the course, even though I knew about as much about nuclear power, immigration policy and India as you do right now.

My father once wrote an exam for which he hadn't studied for at all, and by that I mean, he wrote an exam for which he had taken another course. It was sort of an "independant study" thing: Dad was working, teaching, in the country, and every few weeks, he would drive the few hours into Dublin and meet with his tutor, who had given him the reading material for the course and they's discuss the material and then Dad would go home and read on his own and come back to Dublin to write the final exam. When he sat down to write the exam with everyone else who had taken the course at the University, he discovered that there was nothing on the paper that anything to do with what he had read; it was a whole different era in British history. But because he'd studied history pretty extensively up until then, he was able to cobble together enough to write the paper. It turns out the course material had changed from the previous year, but the tutor had forgotten to tell him, which pretty much makes him the worst tutor ever. The tutor was mortified, and nearly committed hara-kiri when he foung out, but my dad did pass the exam, and everyone was able to resume their lives. 

The girls get a few days off until the next semester starts, and another 4 1/2 months until exams again. I hope they keep their neurons or nefrons in order.