Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Repeat Exams

In the Autumn of 1979 I repeated two first year subjects (Physics and Chemistry). I found both difficult throughout the year and had failed the summer exams quite badly. I was not optimistic when I walked into the Chemistry Building in Trinity where results were posted (no looking them up on-line in those days). Convinced that I had failed again, I was genuinely amazed that I scraped a pass by compensation and I was somehow into second year. Exactly a year later this time I walked with some confidence to the same Chemistry Building to check on the results of another two repeated subjects - to my horror I had failed the repeat exams.

This was a turning point in my life. I was 21 years old and I was a failure. I had spent two summers studying for repeats, while all my friends in College were either travelling or working abroad. My options were to repeat the year, or drop out of College.

With strong encouragement from my Dad to repeat the year, I went through the motions of applying to repeat. My tutor in Trinity informed me that I was "allowed" to repeat, but that it would be much better for everybody if I didn't because he told me I'd be wasting both my own and the College's time by doing so. I'd show him! I repeated the year (I was the only one in my class to do so) and worked a lot harder to comfortably pass all my exams in the summer sitting. For the first time in three years I did not have to study over the summer, and now I was going into third year. I was at last getting the hang of College. In the summer of 1983 I graduated with an honours BA (Mod) degree - it should have been a year earlier, but nevertheless I felt a great sense of achievement. I went on to graduate from Trinity with a PhD in 1988 - not a failure any more.

Today, results for repeat exams at NCI are published. Congratulations to those who have got through, for those who have to repeat the year, it's a tough road to travel, but you can do it.

Only those students who have repeated exams know how it feels. Only students who have repeated a year know what it feels like. Overcoming this and learning from it will be some of the toughest times in College and life that you will encounter. Learning from mistakes makes us all better and stronger. There is no shame in succeeding at the second or subsequent attempt.

Repeating exams in first and second year, while bad enough to go through, has little long term consequence. Repeating exams in an award year has dreadful consequences - more about this in a new post later this week.

Perhaps the worst part of repeating second year in 1980 was that Johnny Logan had just won the Eurovision Song Contest with "What's Another Year" - everybody I met that year thought it was a really funny joke to remind me of this. Anyway, here's a blast from the past...

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