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
Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
News
people
News
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want it for the fitness tech, or for the style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Advisor - OTE £30,000

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Advisor - OTE £30,000

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Administration Assistant / Apprenticeship Industry

£16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity for an e...

Recruitment Genius: NVQ Assessor

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Private Training Provider off...

Day In a Page

Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace