It’s the last week of classes at Trinity College Dublin. This is the final week of Hilary Term. This doesn’t make sense to me. How on earth did this happen? Surely I haven’t been here that long! But even though I can hardly believe it, it’s still true. This is week twelve, and starting next week, Trinity Term begins.
The idea of Trinity Term is something which I’ve never seen in the states, and it’s not something I’m particularly chuffed about. The school year at TCD is divided up into three terms, a system which it shares with Oxford in England. The terms are: Michaelmas (pronounced Micklemas), which is the twelve-week equivalent to the fall semester at most American universities; Hilary, which is the twelve-week equivalent to the spring semester; and Trinity, which is a seven-week designated exam term.
Yep. There’s a separate semester just for exams, people. Guess what that means? For modules (courses) run in Michaelmas Term that are assessed by exam, the vast majority of those exams take place in Trinity Term at least nineteen weeks since students sat in class to learn the material. Why nineteen weeks and not twelve? Well, first of all, there’s a four week winter break between Michaelmas and Hilary, and second of all, there are three weeks set aside for revision in April that are dedicated just to studying for the upcoming exams. So if you have an exam in the first week that exams are held (the last week in April, this year) there have been nineteen weeks between yourself in the classroom and yourself answering questioning on the material, and since there are four weeks of exams, you could be assessed up to twenty two weeks after learning the material. Of course, Full Year and Hilary Term modules that are assessed by exam are also assessed during Trinity Term, which is much closer to the actual instruction dates.
Because of Trinity Term, in part, many Hilary modules that would otherwise have been assessed by essay had they been held in Michaelmas are assessed by exam. This includes many, many English modules. I really hate English exams — I would rather write papers any day, and it seems like a lot of my professors here are equally annoyed with the fact that they have to assess by exam — so I’m irritated by the fact that I’ve got two of them this year. I also have a Michaelmas History module which is assessed by exam which I am really, really not looking forward to. I do appreciate three weeks of dedicated study time, however.
Stepping back from my annoyance for a second, I can see the point to assessing Michaelmas classes in the spring — it forces you to learn and remember the material, or to revise (review) it so heavily in preparation that you do. As far as enforcing learning outcomes, it’s not a half-bad way of proceeding since it enforces self-motivated learning. And it’s not as though I’m without resources. Trinity publishes years worth of copies of exams from former years on their website, so students can get an idea of the typical questions that are asked on exams and prepare accordingly. For my two English modules this term, my professors are using the week twelve class to prepare us for what will be on the exam as well. It’s just that this is all very, very different to what I’m used to in the states, and I’m nervous about going into it because I’ve never been in an academic situation like it before.
Exams are also run in a way that’s very different to America. From what I’ve gleaned from Irish classmates, this is basically what happens: far from being just you and your classmates taking the exam in the room that you learned the material in, your professor or a department colleague overseeing your progress, at TCD multiple exams for different modules will be held in one place, at one time, in examination halls which are patrolled by invigilators (which is the Anglo-Irish term for “proctor”, although tell me it doesn’t make them sound like invading aliens) who keep watch over all that you do. You cannot enter the exam after the first half an hour has passed, and you cannot leave in the last half an hour. Thankfully, however, the booklets that you’re given to write on — if it’s that kind of exam — are full-sized, not the eensy, weensy blue books that have lurked throughout my academic career.
So, yeah. Last week of Hilary Term. Next week is revision week, and then three weeks after that is my first exam. My Dad and stepmom are visiting in two weeks as well, so at least I’ll get a bit of a break to see them, but I have a feeling that my History module is going to eat most of April. Well, as long as they have some of the books I need in the library, I should be fine.
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Hannah Vose is a University of Rochester junior, majoring in English with an interest in literary translation studies. When not burying her nose in whichever book has most recently been plucked from atop the dangerously tall pile on her desk, she can be found obsessively learning new languages, squinting through her (very stylish, thank you!) bifocals at someone else's writing in her job as a Writing Fellow, drinking stupid amounts of tea, squinting through her bifocals at her own writing in her job as a scathing self-critic, or dreaming of living somewhere which gets even less sun than Rochester. Born in England but having lived most of her life in Endicott, New York, she has traveled back to the Land of Her People twice and visited Dublin once on the way over. She considered applying to Trinity College as an international student, but was deterred by tuition costs (yikes!) so she's absolutely 100% thrilled to be living in Dublin and taking classes at Trinity for an entire year (and only about 34% of that is because she might get to take a class on Patrick McCabe -- will it happen? Stay tuned!)</span></p>