It’s exam season in UCD, and as ever, students are scrambling to cram in as much as study as possible on a bare amount of sleep and questionable amounts of caffeine. This year, however, is very different to any previous exam period. With the COVID-19 pandemic, students are now sitting exams from the relative comfort of their homes, as opposed to sitting through exams in the RDS or other official test centres. So, how can you optimise your environment to set yourself up for success in these exams?
We asked Dr. Alan Hunter of UCD’s School Of Agriculture & Food Science for his thoughts. You know, the guy who makes the announcements during the exams in the RDS. The Invigilator in charge of them? Yep, that guy. Speaking to The College Tribune, Dr. Hunter gave this message for students:
“As a gesture of solidarity during this time of uncertainty and challenge for you, I would like to wish you all continued success in your on-line exams. I know that the exams are not the same for all of us this year. There is no social mingling and no opportunity for camaraderie and chat that occurs and of course I do not get to interface with you all or even make any announcements. I look forward to seeing and meeting again in the future. Meanwhile, consider us together even though we are apart. Your exam friend, that guy, Alan Hunter.”
We’ve compiled a little list of tips that may help you overcome the rest of your exams.
Set your Desk Up
Perhaps one of the better aspects of doing exams at home is the larger desks than the miniature RDS ones. Make sure to have all the material you need (sheets of paper, your laptop, mouse, mouse etc), and clear any unnecessary clutter which may distract you. Oh, and don’t forget to have your UCard in the top right corner of the desk, and to put the back of your calculator on the ground, as well as your phone, turned off and lying face flat. Or should it be on for these exams?…. Don’t forget your seat number!
The typical exam settings you are accustomed to are as quiet as the environment permits. This should be the case when you do your own exams at home. Make sure to make everyone you live with aware that you have an exam; put up a sign on your door, send a text to the house’s group chat etc. If these aren’t possible due to your home circumstances, maybe try listening to some classical music or some ambient noises (like waves, wind, rain), on a low volume through a pair of earphones. Anything which helps you drown out external distractions and focus on your exam is recommended.
Make sure you have pens, pencils, rubbers, a calculator etc etc. No need for the see-through pencil case this time around, though by all means have one at hand if you’re feeling reminiscent of the good ‘ol times in the RDS.
Credit where credit is due – the UCD Students’ Union (UCDSU) provides students with some top-class snacks before exams, in an effort which is as close as many will get to their union. A can of RedBull is mandatory, as is a bruised banana and some form of healthy snack which nobody has heard of, nor will they ever eat again outside of the exam hall. Replicate the diet at home by grabbing a coffee, fruit and some nuts. Have them at the ready so you don’t have to venture to the kitchen.
We probably don’t need to mention this, but just in case; take toilet breaks! These are much easier to take at home than in the RDS, so avail of it. No need to wait for permission, to empty your pockets and to sign a sheet whenever nature calls, and no comically-long queue for the ladies.
Of all the downsides to doing exams at home, perhaps the largest is missing out on the post-exam analysis (and pints!) you have with your friends. The exam is criticised, potential correct answers and discussed and everyone compares MCQs to see which answers were the likeliest to be correct. We’d recommend replacing this by organising a group call right after finishing your exam. Sure, you won’t have a loud-mouth exam invigilator telling you to vacate the premises and to be quiet, but it should be just as much craic as the real deal.
Most of you will be halfway through exams by now. If your current approach is working, continue it! But, if you think adding some processes to taking exams from home may benefit you, the above list is as good a starting point as any.
Best of luck to all students still doing exams. Our hearts go out to you, the weather is class at the moment.
Alex Lohier – Deputy Editor