I have a feeling that you and I probably have a lot more in common than we both think. Up until just last week, one of the things we most likely had in common is that we hadn’t sat any university exams. Due to the disruptions of the unexpected COVID-19 (I use the word ‘unexpected’ because I’ve begun to have nightmares about things being called ‘unprecedented’) I have only just sat my first, in-person university exam.

And let me tell you: don’t worry.

Let’s be real, exams can be really stressful – but I have to say that the (albeit few) in-person university exams that I have sat have been much less stressful than any other NCEA or Cambridge one that I’ve done. Here’s why:

1. Seating

I have to admit that I have spent my fair share of time in both NCEA and Cambridge exams wandering around the exam hall trying to find my seat or my paper. Stressful. At university, instead of wandering around worrying about not finding your seat, simply wander in and take a seat. Nice and simple.

2. Reading Time

At the start of every exam, you will get five minutes to read the cover of the exam and make sure all your details are correct. After that, you get another ten minutes to read through the exam paper. No writing, no nothing. Just time to read through the exam paper. How great is that!

3. Less Waste

Your exam isn’t individually wrapped in plastic. Hooray for the environment! (It may be a stretch that this one makes exams less stressful for the person taking it, but it definitely makes exams less stressful for the environment.)

4. Special Conditions

If you need to sit exams under special conditions, for whatever reason that may be – the university will try their darndest to accommodate you. I’m a Type 1 Diabetic myself, and so have to take my blood glucose monitor, food and insulin into the exam with me. As a result, the university allow me to sit the exam in a room with fewer people – which is great because it means I don’t feel as if I’m distracting a whole crowd of people by testing my blood glucose levels or having a bite to eat. This provides that extra bit of peace of mind.

5. Aegrotat

Possibly the funniest word in the English language, an Aegrotat can be applied for when something unexpected (once again I’ve tried to avoid the word ‘unprecedented’) before or during your exam. This could range from a bereavement to tripping over and breaking your arm on the way into your exam. If it gets granted, your exam grade gets derived from your other results throughout the semester (a good reason to always try your hardest during the semester, not just during the exam period). I really hope that you’ll never have to use one, but always remember that they’re there – and that you definitely shouldn’t be coming into an exam if you’re sick (if 2020 has taught us one thing, it is stay at home when you are sick).

Overall, the exams at university may be less stressful than the ones at secondary school – but what about the content of the exams themselves? How can you do well at university exams?

Let me start off by saying that I am no expert on this, but I still have one piece of advice to give: go to your lectures. Going to all of your lectures is the simplest and easiest way to make sure that you keep on top of all of the content, meaning that you don’t have to cram everything in a few days before the exam. Yes, 8 AM lectures may be difficult, especially in the middle of winter and all you want to do is stay in bed – but trust me, it is worth it.

Finally, I want to wish you all the best for your upcoming exams (I’m sure you’ll smash them), or if you’re on a gap year make the most of no exams!