Diary Of A Third Year: 'I haven't picked up a pen since I last did an exam'

The return of sunshine and summer brings sadness for third years. It means final exams are only a few weeks away and every waking hour is spent in the library. This wouldn't be so bad if Sheffield University's library didn't overlook a park filled with first and second years enjoying picnics and drinking cider. Revision is often interrupted by whoops of joy, or a Frisbee crashing into the library's windows.

The library changes during revision time. It's normally a catwalk, as students do their best to pull off study-chic – managing the fine line between looking attractive and intelligent, without appearing nerdy. During the exam period such aesthetic concerns go out the window. A combination of warm weather and a shoddy air conditioning system means that the ,students look like they're off to the beach, in shorts and flip-flops.

The library becomes a tip, with cups of coffee and chocolate wrappers scattered everywhere as students are simply too busy to put anything in a bin. One shelf, in particular, has books strewn all over the place: it's the shelf containing folders of previous exam papers. Rather than learning everything on the course, students simply devote a few hours to going through previous papers, looking for topics that always come up and questions that are likely to appear in their exam. You won't be asked about every topic, so why bother learning them all? It's far easier to simply play the percentages, revise a few topics well and hope for the best.

Cynics say that university is all about working hard, 12 hours a day, seven days a week – for four weeks a year. Those four weeks have begun. But university assessment is not all just exams. Barring Oxbridge, few universities judge their students solely on their final papers. The exams I will take at the end of May account for around 30 per cent of my degree. There's pressure – but not as much as there would be if I knew I was one duff paper away from a failed degree.

Even so, revision is a must. Timetables should be carefully drawn up and scrapped when your university decides to move your exams forward a week. My room is littered with spider diagrams, revision cards and notes of factoids that might wake the examiner from their marking-induced stupor.

Despite having sat exams every year for the best part of a decade, revision is still something of a mystery to me. At GCSE and A-Level there are revision guides to lead you. At university, you're on your own, with only your shoddy notes for guidance. Notes that made perfect sense when written down hurriedly in a lecture make much less sense three months later. Often, it's not even a case of "revision", but a case of learning for the first time.

The hardest part of revision is learning how to write again – not learning how to write lively, analytical prose, but how to physically form letters with a pen, rather than keyboard. Because I type my lecture notes, I have barely picked up a pen since I last did an exam, in spring 2009. Exams are easy – it's the writing that's hard.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Jerry Seinfeld Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
peopleSitcom star urges men to be more supportive of women than ever
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
Jay Z
businessJay-Z's bid for Spotify rival could be blocked
footballLouis van Gaal is watching a different Manchester United and Wenger can still spring a surprise
The spider makes its break for freedom
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Ashdown Group: IT Manager - Salesforce / Reports / CRM - North London - NfP

£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and reputable Not for Profit o...

Reach Volunteering: External HR Trustee Needed!

Voluntary post, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Would you ...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree have recently been awa...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot