Late Night Rituals: The Books, Pen and Realities of College Exams

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By Alexander Asare

As the academic semester has folded up towards its crescendo, students of the African University College of Communications (AUCC) find themselves sitting on the fence of an annual academic wall, the formidable college exams.

For many, the mere mention of these impending assessments sparks a complex symphony of emotions, ranging from anticipation to outright apprehension.

As the clock has ticked already for the exams week, a sense of urgency permeates the academic atmosphere. The library, typically a hub of collective studying, and the study hut on the compound of AUCC, have been transformed into a mosaic of focused individuals, while students bury themselves in textbooks, lecture notes and slides for end of semester evaluations.

According to the department of the AUCC Financial Account  Registry, 700 plus undergraduate students from all four levels will take part in 36 examinations from Monday, November 27, to  Saturday, December 16, 2033. All the semester’s work will be assessed in a total of about 144  hours of evaluation.

The spectrum of apprehension is broad, with each student grappling with their unique sets of worries.

Patience, a L 300 Visual Communication Major worries about the sheer volume of educational material to cover. As this particular semester has been loaded, she says:

“It feels like I’m trying to gulp down an ocean of information in a shot glass,” she admits, eyes fixed on her open textbook. Her sentiment resonates with countless peers who share the daunting task of condensing an entire semester’s worth of learning into a few study sessions.

Eshun is a Strategic Communications L 300 student.

“Phonetics and Phonology is the most scary for me this semester. I am yet to grasp the concept very well to pen it on paper, come December 9. But let’s see how it goes,” he exclaimed.

Salomey’s comments were no different from her peers, as she spoke of juggling between learning and going to take Advertising and Public Relations exams back to back in a day interval.

“I am stressed and I am experiencing a brain spare time syndrome,” she bemoaned.

Amid the collective stress, the proverbial butterflies in the stomach manifest for many as a roller-coaster of emotions.

“It’s not just about the fear of failure; it’s the uncertainty of what the exam will throw at you. Will it align with what I’ve focused on, or will it spring surprises”? Salomey’s sentiment mirrors the universal fear of the unknown that accompanies exams.

The anticipation isn’t solely academic; social pressure and demands also play a major role. The looming exams disrupt the normal rhythm of campus life for students who are already grappling with balancing family, work and other private issues, while focusing on studies and navigating full payment of fees to enable them to take the exams.

Yet, amidst the sea of textbooks and sleep deprived moments, students exchange empathetic glances, acknowledging the shared burden they all bear. Support groups materialize, be it official study sessions organized by professors or impromptu gatherings fueled by mutual encouragement. In these moments, the apprehension is momentarily lifted as the students find strength in unity.

In the adversity of exam-related anxiety, some students  have braved the odds in overcoming their diverse experiences, highlighting resilience and coping mechanisms they have developed over the period.

Selorm, a Level 300 Development Communications student said “over the years, I have adopted effective coping strategies by developing mindfulness techniques and time management skills which have turned the fear of exams into focus.”

Business student, Kobby opened up about the pressure to maintain perfect grades and how it has led to burnout during this semester especially, which has been very loaded with lots of academic work, back-to-back.

Joyce reflects on how creating a supportive study group with other colleague learners has become a game-changer in managing exam-related stress and anxieties.

“It has helped my journey, and I would like to emphasize on the importance of supporting learning groups in student campus exams life.”

Come exam week, the campus can be compared to a cemetery of raw emotions, as nervousness echoes the corridors of examination halls, and the rustle of pages turning is accompanied by the collective inhale and exhale of a student body holding its breath. The apprehension reaches its zenith as the first question is unveiled, setting the stage for the culmination of weeks of rigorous preparation.

Rashid. L300, recounts his painful ordeal when taking his first exams paper on Psychology in his second year second semester, where he was asked to vacate the exams hall due to unpaid fees.

“It was an embarrassment at the moment for me, having to go plead and take a ‘chit’ to enable me finish up with the rest of the paper, which was [left with only 20 minutes to pens-down. You just made me rekindle that indelible memory,” he said .

By December 16, 2023, the exams will be over. In its aftermath, the campus exhales. The weight is lifted, replaced by a mix of relief and curiosity about the outcomes. As students disperse to catch up on lost sleep or engage in well-deserved post-exam celebrations, a shared sense of accomplishment binds them together.

Chris anxiously appears to see an end in sight of the last exam.

“When that last exam is over, it’s like breaking free from a mental prison. Suddenly, the world outside the exam hall seems brighter, and you feel like you have been flooded with a mix of exhaustion and relief. It’s a feeling that’s hard to put into words, but every student experiences it.”

The story of college exams and student apprehension is a timeless narrative woven into the fabric of academic life. It is a tale of resilience and the human capacity to navigate challenges, emerging stronger on the other side. As one chapter closes with the sound of the last exam paper turned in, another begins as a collective journey of growth and learning, fueled by the trials and triumphs of the examination season.

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