Exam and post-exam periods in Cambridge

My first year at the University of Cambridge has come to its end. The last and in students perspective key term went very quickly, but certainly is worth looking back.

During the Easter vacations before the start of this term, we were assigned with a project called „Product Design“. The target is for the first year students to come up with their ideas of technological implementations that could improve a particular field. This year´s topic was transport. Many student ideas considered trains, which have a lower standard in the UK than in continental Europe. Numerous other „inventions“ considered waiting areas related with means of transport rather than the actual transport facilities. In this context, I felt quite original with my thought of an aircraft de-icing system that would not need specialised vehicles with de-icing fluid and dedicated parts of the taxiways at airports. The ideas were presented in groups of approximately thirty students and in front of a committee containing one member of the academic sphere and some representative(s) of industry. It was a great inspiration to see the ideas of other students, and we also went through the process of development of such ideas to see how convenient they would be in the real market.

The Easter (3rd) term at Cambridge is different from the first two terms of the year. The main reason for this is the preparation for exams, which take place only once a year during the last week of the Easter term. The exams contain topics of the entire year, and so the students are given enough time for revision and also go through a higher number of supervisions. During the supervisions, lecture topics are explained more in depth and are also put into context by going through past exam questions. On the other hand, the number of labs progressively decreases during the Easter term to provide the necessary time and space for the revision. Lectures end two weeks before the start of exams, and from that time on, the preparation is entirely based on self-study and supervisions.

In the first year of engineering, there are four exams based on the four core subjects: Mechanics, Structures+Materials, Electrical engineering and Mathematical methods (which also involve programming). Each of the exams has the form of a three-hour long written test. Because of the size of these tests, it is almost impossible to answer all questions in the time given, and therefore time management is a very important factor. It is therefore highly recommended to us by the supervisors to revise by going through previous years exams rather than by re-reading the notes. These so-called „exam skills“ can be crucial for the final result. Also, the final mark is not based on the absolute percentage of a student from the exams, but rather on the comparison with other students in the year. Such „competition“ can seem a bit cruel, but also creates extra motivation.

The rewards for surviving the exam marathon depend on whether a particular student is a rower. While the non-rowing part of the students enjoys pubs in the city centre, us rowers immediately switch onto the biggest rowing event of the year, the May Bumps. In this race, the boats do not race side-by-side, but instead consecutively in a line with a gap of about 1,5 boat lengths between each two boats. The target is to bump the boat in front, which means that the next racing day the starting positions of these two boats switch. The race is continuous and goes on from the first half of the 19th century, and the individual boats of the college start on the spots where their predecessors finished the year before. Our boat managed to jump up five places in this year´s bumps, so we enjoyed a good feeling as well as a fantastic atmosphere at the river.

This academic year has provided me with many great experiences and I only look forward to the next one after the summer vacations.


More blog articles

All news