So, you may have heard of this ‘oral exam’ system that exists in Italy. It’s true. The exam basically consists of you and the professor, TALKING about the subject. The exam can be (and will be) interrupted by the professor’s phone, colleagues, random hecklers who can come in off the streets just to laugh at your ignorance, other students who want to eavesdrop (ORIGLIARE) on the examination, your friends who have come to support your miserable efforts, and computer problems.
But don’t worry. The professors are usually very nice. And if you aren’t satisfied with how well you’ve done, you can simply refuse to take the grade and retry at a later point.
It’s a good motivation to attend class, even if you learn absolutely nothing from the lectures. Since the exams are oral, there is absolutely none of this unbiased system that we have in the UK. Your professor sees you, knows you, and if you attended all of the lectures, you’re already firmly in their approval (hopefully). Talk to your professors. They are allowed to play favourites in grading your exam. Use that to your advantage.
You’ll receive a small piece of paper when you register at the beginning of the year. Don’t lose it! Your grades go on it. The system is a bit ancient; I’m sure they haven’t changed it from when the university was founded 1000 years ago. Usually you can sign up for exams on the internet, but sometimes you will need to write your name on a piece of paper, whatever your professor indicates. And if the notice says that your exam is at 9 am, be prepared to wait in the corridor until 5 pm to take your exam – remember, a large portion of your class is also hoping to take their exam at 9 am. Since the professor can only examine one student at a time, and it usually takes around 30 minutes per examination, that means a lot of waiting. I waited for one exam until 1 pm, when my professor came out and announced that he was done for the day, please come back another day. Moments like these, although they remove lots of stress from the whole examination process, are good reminders of the benefits of the overly-organized system in Edinburgh. At least you know when you will do your exam. You won’t study for nothing. I finished one class in November. It is now April and I still have not done the examination because I’m too lazy – but that’s perfectly acceptable. I don’t know any Italian students who have done that exam yet, either. Most of them are planning to do it next year. So there’s no stress, but it’s easy to see how students can take 10 years to complete a 3 year degree.