Exam season Q&A

The TN Student Living team ask TCDSU all your unanswered questions regarding the upcoming exam season

Well, it’s that time of year again… exam season….Whether this is your first experience or you are a well-practised exam veteran looking for a new approach, this article is for you. We have compiled a list of the most asked questions on campus, and who else better to answer them than TCDSU Education Officer Catherine Arnold and Welfare Officer Aoife Bennett?!

1. I feel so overwhelmed trying to balance studying while also keeping up with the new workload each week, do you have any advice on dealing with this?

Firstly, it’s totally okay to feel overwhelmed this time of year! Aoife acknowledges this by saying, “The workload really picks up in the latter half of the term…If you chat to other people in your course or across the college more generally, you’d probably find that a lot of people are feeling the same way. It’s important to remember you are not alone.” 

 She encourages anyone feeling this way to pop into House 6 or to send an email to her. Some great College supports she recommends include: “student counselling to get some guidance on how to deal with exam stress and the pressures of college, the S2S Peer Supporter Scheme, or the Student Learning Development.”

2. Do you have any study tips? Any resources you could recommend to make studying easier?

Aoife states: “The biggest tip I can give anyone is to ask for help. Go to the lecturer’s office hours, reach out to your tutor, and talk to your friends. Setting myself deadlines and studying with other people really helped keep me motivated, but that won’t work for everyone.” Before concluding, “It can seem tempting to lock yourself in the library for two weeks, but if you push yourself too hard, it will have a negative effect on your work and ability to concentrate. Mind yourselves!”

Catherine recommends the website Written? Kitten! And awards it as “the best writing helper known to humanity.”  Their main goal? “every 100 words, you get rewarded with another kitten picture, and if you have any long writing submissions it can make writing 3000 words a lot easier.” Of course, the library is another reliable option too, with Catherine reminding us, “Your subject librarian is a godsend and always wants to help!”

Both Aoife and Catherine recommend the Student Learning Development too. Aoife says, “You can book a one-to-one appointment with them to talk about your study queries/concerns or go to one of their group sessions.” 

3. How does a college exam differ from a secondary-level state exam?

This can be confusing, especially for any first years facing their first batch of exams. Catherine says, “College exams differ from secondary-level exams in two ways; firstly, they test differing competencies. Rote learning will not get you very far – you need to show complex understanding of the topic – often it’s reflective writing or reflexive writing over descriptive writing. Secondly, these exams are tied to an accreditation which states you have rigorously studied this area.” So, begone the days of learning your six different leaving cert history essays back to front! You certainly will not be missed…

4. I’ve never been to the RDS before. What should I expect when entering the exam hall?

Catherine recommends visiting the RDS before the exams to get an idea of exactly where your exam will be on the day. She describes it as follows: “There will be a number of stewards from Academic Registry to help guide you through the process once you enter the venue…You may have to put any belongings you have in a bag for safekeeping during the exam. When you go in, what you see is a large hall with rows of desks and chairs just like you might have seen for your leaving cert. Find your seat – have your exam number to hand – take a deep breath, and when the invigilator says “go!”, get down to it. There will be a coffee van outside for before and after coffee care!”

5. Is there the option to take exams somewhere other than the RDS or the Exam Hall?

If you are a student with a disability, you may be able to access on-campus services and support during the exam period. Trinity offers a range of supports, including the option to take exams in a private room on campus. If you are considering using these services, contact your Disability Officer as soon as possible.

Also, if you are a student who is taking an online exam and need a private space to work,  the Academic Registry has private work spaces available for booking.

6. What’s the repeat process?

Unfortunately, sometimes things just don’t go your way in an exam. Maybe an unexpected question came up, or the all-nighter you took before the exam took its toll. As someone who has failed an exam, it can feel a bit like the end of the world and definitely a bit humbling. Thankfully, Trinity lets you re-try your luck during the supplemental (or repeat) exams. If you do find that you fail an exam in either exam session of the year, you will automatically be registered to retake your failed exam during the reassessment period in August.

It can be hard to bounce back after failing an exam, but remember that there are a range of supports that you can avail of (for a range of resources, you can refer to question 2 of this article).

7. I’m having issues with my exam timetable, who do I contact about this?

If you are facing problems with your timetable, Catherine suggests “sending in a notice of this to the Academic Registry through your My TCD portal to clarify exactly what the story is there. It’s possible that your exam is online and so not being listed, but contact Academic Registry to get this cleared up.”

8. I’ve two exams scheduled on the same day in different places (RDS and Goldsmith). How is this feasible?

As part of a college-wide change, Trinity has started to host more exams on campus. While the RDS remains as the “traditional” exam venue for now, Trinity is already holding around 30% of in-person exams on campus this year. This means that many students will have to travel between the two venues on exam days. Catherine assures students that “if the exams are scheduled with sufficient time in between to travel to both venues, then this should be feasible”; however, recognises it is not ideal. To tackle any issues students may face when travelling to or between the two venues, Trinity has ensured that both the RDS and the designated on-campus exam rooms will have the papers required for a student to sit their exam. So if a student can’t reach campus on time from the RDS, there will be copies of their exam waiting for them at the RDS. Catherine also suggests contacting the Academic Registry if you have further concerns.

9. Do you have any advice for making an appeal?

Sometimes there are cases in which students do well in exams, but it is not reflected in their mark. If you find that you have taken an assessment and believe that you have fulfilled the criteria for a higher mark despite being given a lower one, you can definitely take action. First, ensure you have the grounds to begin the appeal procedure (found on this website) and email your Tutor about it. Make sure you are able to give clear reasoning on why you wish to appeal the result and be sure to understand what a remark would mean.

However, the key reminder of all this is to: look after yourself! whether that is grabbing a coffee with your friends or family, blasting out your favourite music on the commute home, or allowing yourself a little binge-watch of Netflix (because there’s always time for a Netflix-binge-watch, right?)

Whatever gets you through this period. You can do this!

Emma Rouine

Emma Rouine is the current Student Living Co - Editor and a Junior Sophister English Studies student. She previously served as Deputy Student Living Editor.