2nd Year History Exams

Working on my exam at home

I didn't have Prelims because COVID was still quite new and was unfortunately flourishing. To add to that, lots of collections had been cancelled as well due to 'unprecedented times' and so the idea of an exam was quite a scary prospect for me. 

However, second year History exams aren't sit down, exam hall, full subfusc, 'your three hours start now' kind of exams. They are in fact a coursework based, take home paper that you complete over nine days. And so, on the 16th June the online exam platform Inspira popped up with the notification that my exam had started and attached was a pdf of my questions all relating to History of the British Isles 1: 300-1100.

This was the paper I studied in Michaelmas and I think possibly one of my favourites ever. I enjoyed the content, the debates, my tutor was fantastic and my tute partner (who weirdly enough lives only down the road from me both in Oxford and at home in Cardiff) was sublime. That meant the 8 weeks flew by. But the downside was that the 8 weeks flew by, and the terms after that. Our final assignment from my tutor, nicknamed DG, was to write a 5,000 word long essay on a topic we hadn't covered like the economy, the church, or women (which is what I settled on). So over Easter I completed all the reading but then suddenly term started and I didn't quite get round to finishing the essay off. 

Luckily or unluckily DG had not forgotten and chased me down until I handed it in. This might all seem a bit roundabout but my point is that I hadn't really done any revision or thought much about the exam. And you might think that it's open book so that doesn't matter but I certainly wished I'd summarised and organised my notes a bit before starting. Sometimes, trying to find information took ages and felt like a wild goose chase, sometimes my notes weren't very comprehensive and it was an added frustration at a stressful time I really could have done without. In some cases, my tute partner, Darcy, had to swoop in and save the day by sending me her notes or pointing me in the right direction!

Having said that, in a strange way I did kind of enjoy the exam. I liked the challenge of the questions and having to really think about things and I enjoyed writing them out and getting my thoughts down on paper. Even though it was open book, it was still hard as any exam would be and completing it at home was a lonely experience in many ways; I didn't have anyone to check in with in person and have quick chats at tea breaks about our progress.

What I definitely didn't like was getting confused with the submission and submitting the wrong version which was quickly followed by a panicked email to the History Faculty God, Andrea Hopkins who was able to sort out my mess and set me on the right track. I think I am certainly looking forward to exams being back in person although it's still something I worry about having never had any real practice at it because of cancelled Prelims. On the other hand, the second year history exam has always been done online regardless.

It was a hard slog, right at the end of term, but after I clicked submission for the second and final time, I felt very calm and at peace, and also knackered, but I was able to feel that second year had been completed. 


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