Exam Day

It's exam day. Yes, my A200 course ends today. I'm totally unprepared for the exam, and I'm dreading it a bit. You see, I'm not a historian, my brain is quite mathsy - I tend to get principles and then apply them. With history, there are principles, but there are also facts. Loads of them. Where to start?! How to prepare for something like this?

As a physicist, I tend to 'pick up' things I need often, and look up the rest. For example, I know that the charge on an electron is -1.6x10-19C, I know it takes 13.6eV to ionise hydrogen, I know that the Earth has a radius of about 6400km and a mass of 6x1024kg. I know the planck constant and the speed of light. I never sat down to learn this stuff, I learned principles, and the facts I needed seeped in as they were used.

This methodology doesn't really cut much ice for the forthcoming exam. It's not enough to know the big picture, I need to know the nitty gritty names of things, who said what to whom, who did what to whom... that is important, I can see it's important - but I can't shake my physicist brain out of the 'it's what they said that's important, not who said it' mentality.

For instance, if there is a question about statebuilding in Germany (Bismarck, Wilhelm etc), I should be fine, Statebuilding in Belgium? Okay. Italy? Screwed. With physics, I could take the one principle and apply it in multiple cases (this is why people tend to to well or badly with physics - you get it, or you don't).

I could repeat that across the course, some aspects will be fine, and on others I'm in deep do-do. It all depends on the slant of the question.

This is most uncomfortable for me. Apart from my driving test, I've never done badly in an exam, ever - I've not allowed myself to be unprepared, and I've been taking subjects which 'fitted' with how I think. I've done less well than I'd hoped, perhaps, but not badly.

With the OU exam, the course has been for fun (and it has been interesting), but it has also been the lowest priority, and as such I've been playing catchup through the course. I don't think that's the real issue for me, though. Even with an indefinite time to prep for the exam, I don't think I'd ever really feel ready, my brain doesn't work in the 'history kind of way'. That's why I took the course on in the first place.

I might be pleasantly surprised, but even if I get a good score, I won't be satisfied. I won't be coming away from the course with a feeling that I really know stuff. I'll know more than many, but that's not what will satisfy. With my first degree I knew when I knew, I was confident when I learned something, and I knew when I got there by the skin of my teeth, and I did something about it. With the history course, I'm not confident and secure in anything. I don't like it.

What I've got is a broad overview, without the fine resolution of detail. That is something I didn't have before, and it's in a subject which is far from my first choice of subjects. It doesn't help that the revision has been woeful, I've had a lot of work related commitments, and I've come home tired, unable to study effectively - and so I've spent the evenings doing fairly mindless things. Honestly though, I don't see that loads of revision would have changed matters, history is so far out of my comfort zone. If I can look things up as I need them, great. I can concentrate on the arguments.

That said, my coursework to date is of 2(i) standard (Pass 2 in OU-speak). I recognise that by most standards this is good, yet I do get a little pang of disappointment to miss the pass 1.

I can't do anything to get a Pass 1 now, and I fear the exam will knock the grade down to Pass 3 or lower (I'm lacking so much confidence). I'm dreading some little snippet of information proving both critical and elusive.

By 5:30pm, it'll all be over.

15% and I can resit 40% and it's a grade 4 pass 55% and it's a grade 3 pass 70% and it's a grade 2 pass I can't get grade 1.

Honestly, If I'm not getting grade 2, I would want to resit, there would be dissatisfaction and I would not be happy. Realistically, I feel that grade 3 would be more likely, and deserved. Anything below grade 3, and resits beckon. Regardless of the result, I'm not as fluent as I'd want to be, even if I fluke it.

Can I have another week, please?