Friday, 23 November 2007

First exam

It's been a difficult week somehow. I think I've just done too many things and not spent enough time recovering, so I need to try and ease up next week. It's all fun; I don't want to stop going out in the evenings, but the early starts really wear me out, and it looks as though next semester I'll have to travel five days a week instead of four. As well as having to get up early on more days, this is bad because it's a 25% increase in the cost of fuel, which now costs more than £1 a litre everywhere. It works out at £10 a day in diesel to go to university and back. And based on recent experience, I can't begin to estimate the cost in wear and tear on the car...

So this week I played badminton, revised and had an exam, played squash, went to a wine tasting (I recommend the Argentinian Viognier), went to the gym (twice), had lectures and a practical, and attended Student Ambassador training. Then I received my exam timetable for January. The first exam is on the first day of the new term. The second is on the Thursday, and then the third appears to be on Saturday, at 4.30! I thought it might be a mistake at first, but perhaps not? The last is on the following Monday, so at least there seems to be a free week before lectures start again.

Our first proper exam was last Tuesday, a short multiple choice test on 'Whole Organism Biology' in a freezing cold room, so we were all sitting in coats and scarves. The story is that the heating is controlled on a completely different university site 15 miles away, which I thought was a myth until it was confirmed by the office staff. The actual test wasn't too bad, although the 'negative marking' scheme distracted me a little. The idea is that wrong answers are penalised with a negative mark, as a method of neutralising pure guesswork. The whole thing is only worth 10% of one module, a tiny contribution to this years ultimate total, but it was very informative. I learned the following:
  • Not to forget to bring my official student card
  • Try to ignore the negative marking thing
  • A rubber is vital for multiple choice, as well as a pencil and pencil sharpener
  • Woolly hat, fingerless gloves and thermals are also essential exam equipment.
After the test, when I would normally want to wind down in a quiet place with some music, we went straight into a practical on plant hormones - not too bad in the end, but it was pretty hard to concentrate.

Of course, this wasn't the first assessed work contributing to final marks, but the first we've done in exam conditions. The other coursework has been handed out for us to do at home, and most lecturers have arranged a tutorial session before the deadline to help out with any queries. One tutor was particularly helpful in a tutorial, essentially giving us the answers. This isn't quite how it sounds, because it's not always clear to us novices what the questions are really looking for. The answers I'd already prepared before the tutorial were mostly wrong, either in the level of detail or the aspect of the question that I thought was being asked. That tutor probably doubled my mark!

A highlight of another module was a lecturer who delighted in telling us all about the microbiology of the gastro-intestinal tract, going into detail (with pictures) of all the microorganisms that can cause significant disease. Lovely!

The Dietetics element of the course continues to be interesting, with a couple of Community Dietitians speaking to us about home visiting, obesity management on an outpatient basis, and a discussion about the origins and politics of the NHS. We've talk about the need for counselling skills, learned about the professional bodies that regulate dietetics in the UK, and we've taken a diet history (7 day and 24 hour recall) for nutrient analysis. My aim for this weekend is to get that bit of work written up.

Last thing on Friday was the Student Ambassador training where we learned to balance a pyramid of Ferrero Rocher in one hand while representing the UK abroad. Not really. Student Ambassadors attend Open Days for prospective students and their parents, take them on tours of the campus, and generally answer questions about anything and everything to do with student life. I volunteered because of the lack of older students when I attended an Open Day, which meant I couldn't really get answers to any of my questions relating to living off-campus or managing studies after so long out of full-time education.

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