Exams in Ireland

Monday, December 12, 2011

I've been sitting in front of my computer for a few hours now, knowing that I need to start studying for my next exam but that is of course not happening so here I am.  There's really not much to update on since I've barely moved from my kitchen table in the last three days but I am too mystified by the process of exams in Ireland to not make a post about it. 

 In the U.S. final exams are fairly laid back. You would have a scheduled final time but the test would take place in the classroom you regularly attend and if your professor is feeling nice they will just give it to you on the last day of classes so you don't have to stick around for the actual scheduled date.  You would also only get one "reading day" between the end of classes and the start of finals to study.

In Ireland, however, exams are like SATs on crack. 

The process begins with a week long "revision" week.  As you can see from my frequent posts, I struggled to utilize this week in the way it was intended.

After revisions the exams are spread over a week and a half.  Most of the exams for UCD and Trinity are held at a place called the Royal Dublin Society or RDS.  I'm not sure what this place's main function is but I'm pretty sure it's actually just there to hold functions.  My bus goes by it on my way to Blackrock and every day there are signs advertising for Knitting Fairs or Priest Concerts or other strange events.  I'm hoping UCD has some type of deal with the RDS because I cannot begin to imagine what the cost might be to rent these halls for two weeks.  Considering the university is state funded I would not be happy to know that my money was going to rent out these halls when there are hundreds of perfectly good classrooms on campus that could serve the same purpose.

After entering what looks like an airplane hanger, you have to find your assigned seat number and then mill around with the hundreds of other students waiting to be herded into the exam hall.  You aren't allowed to bring bags into the hall so they have a "cloakroom" (aka a space on the floor) that you can check your things for a euro per item (ripoff).

I was amazed upon entering the hall.  I don't know how many desks and chairs the hall holds but I've never seen anything quite like it.  Actually, I just checked out the RDS website and apparently the hall we were in can hold 1800 desks.  Impressive.

O.W.L.s at Hogwarts?
They come around and check your id a few times; you have to put the cover of your calculator on the floor under your chair; there are of course no phones allowed; if you leave the hall at any point you're not allowed back in.  There's a man that speaks into a microphone and tells you all the rules but I was so far back I couldn't see him... it all felt very Big Brother-ish. I was actually more nervous about doing something wrong during the exam than about the exam itself.

My favorite part was that the people that walk around during the exam to make sure you're not cheating are called "Invigilators," which I think is just the coolest name.  I wonder if anyone has ever grown up hoping to become an Invigilator.  It's kind of like Terminator for the less physically fit. 

Though for being Invigilators they weren't too vigilant.  They didn't realize I had a graphing calculator until an hour into the exam.  Luckily they just gave me a regular one but if I had been planning on cheating I'm pretty sure I would have had plenty of time to do so.

Overall it was quite an experience.  The exam itself wasn't so thrilling but it's over with and I'm moving on to my next exams... as soon as I get off the internet.


  1. Erin, I like! It was also my first foray into UCD exams at the RDS. Trinity had small 'cosy' exams, which still managed to terrify me but never crammed more than 200 into a room. Today was unreal...will feel slightly more prepared on Friday...

  2. That brings me back... those creaky wooden tables in the aircraft hanger exam halls. It's a scary business - good luck with the Irish experience.

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