The Exam Slayer

Last exam slain… the semester went by incredibly fast! I feel as it was yesterday when I arrived at CDG with two huge suitcases, a heavy backpack and the biggest handbag I thought would actually pass for being a handbag when I put up a disarming smile. True, the check-in guy at the Prague airport was not the nicest one I have ever met but after he saw my I-am-trying-so-hard-to-come-up-with-a-smile-but-in-fact-I-am-scared-you-will-make-me-say-goodbye-to-my-lovely-dresses-I-know-I-will-hardly-ever-get-to-wear-but-could-not-leave-at-home-anyway-or-the-highheels-I-discretely-hid-at-the-bottom-of-the-suitcase-despite-knowing-I-will-not-have-many-opportunities-to-put-them-on desperate smile, he empathetically closed his eyes when weighting my clearly overweight luggage and preferred not to weight the backpack at all claiming it was small anyway (my back surely disagreed).

A couple of months later, here I am, lying on my bed with a huge smile on my face (you know, the cute yet a bit silly one that goes on for ages or, at least, until you get sufficiently tired of people asking you why you are smiling) as my last exam could not have gone better even though I had put my revision week to the service of the OECD Week (a great experience, indeed). Finally, I can throw myself into the wonderful life of a tourist in the City of Lights.

It seems like the perfect time to share with you my observations regarding studying in Paris itself. However, you will understand that pondering over courses is the last thing I would be thrilled to do right now. In fact, I started to write this post already on Tuesday when I got home after my great victory at the Battle of International Economic Relations. I even managed to write down a good couple of paragraphs. But as the paper was filling up with lines of little black signs and there were still countless things I wanted to cover, I just decided to come back to this topic later.

Notwithstanding, here come a few thoughts on exams so that this post is not completely contentless. At Sorbonne there are three types of assessment – continuous assessment, final examination and a combination of both. Having had my fun with continuous assessment as well as final examination, I can say that they both have their pros and cons and to say which one is easier to pass is quite tricky.

If I remember correctly, Edinburgh suggests their students to go for courses with continuous assessment, though, personally, I would say it depends on individual strengths of every student. A mix of courses with different types of assessment spread out my work efficiently over the semester. My continuous assessment was based on some or all of the following: an exposé, a short exam written in class and an essay (some courses required both continuous assessment and a final written exam but as an Erasmus student I did not have to sit the exam). What all these assignments have in common is a rigid structure. My attitude towards it went from “I hate this stupid thing” to “in fact, it is a clever approach and I really appreciate the logic behind it”. Fingers crossed, I will get back to this topic in more detail when I force or motivate myself enough to finish the paragraphs on studying at Sorbonne. Anyway, it is fairly difficult to get it right if you had not gone through the French schooling system.

Consequently, for me, the easiest assessment was the oral exam I took on Tuesday as there was not enough time to brother with the fixed exposé structure. I got a fairly broad topic (les relations économiques internationales – la crise finale du système 67-73) and a couple of minutes to prepare it. Then I presented it, got asked an additional question and was done. It was much more relaxed too. When the exam was over, the professor asked me a couple of questions about my future plans and when he found out I studied in the UK he could not help himself but say that it made sense, that it kind of reflected in the way I presented the arguments. I thanked him hesitantly wondering whether he meant it as a compliment.

I do not remember information on type of assessment being part on any course information available online. In fact, I only got the information once the courses had started. A piece of advice, it might be a good idea to ask about it beforehand so that you can take it into account when making your final course selection; be ready for a tiring attempts to get an answer though.

That’s all Folks! I am off to a museum and a glass of wine with friends in the evening. Best of luck to those of you still burdened with exams and good summer weather to the rest of you.

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