Tag Archives: exam

Don’t Need No Education

examsOnce again our little cottage is in a state of uproar.

The Teenager is sitting some GCSE exams, with the rest to follow next year.

I have bought him the Lett’s guides, replenished his pen-pot, explained how to write up mind maps and supplied him with a steady stream of juice to refresh his brain.

To no avail.

In the middle of cooking dinner yesterday (a home-made curry he refused to eat – tough), the phone rang.

‘Mrs Stumbling?’


‘Well,’ and sounding relieved to reach a real, live parent on the phone, regaled me with a tale of woe and lost opportunities. The Teenager could easily reach an A in this subject, but is cruising close to an F, if he’s lucky. The usual – not concentrating, joking around, no proper presentation of coursework.

It was a good conversation in some ways. I explained that he has all the support he needs here. Apart from anything else, I’ve been studying something or other for ten out of his fourteen years. It simply boils down to him being a Teenager who is somewhat lazy. And rude. And…(I could go on and on).

When he came home from school, I summoned him to the kitchen as I was juggling naan bread, a hot grill and a large pot of curry. He saw my face and scarpered, slamming his bedroom door extra loud. He really should have taken GCSE drama. He’s quite superb. I counted the seconds, and sure enough, within 15, loud music was blasting out. The angsty type.

I yelled up the stairs – handily, his name has three syllables, so the effect can be quite stern. ‘Wha?’ ‘Come down……..NOW.’

After a stand-off worthy of a spaghetti western, he sloped into the kitchen, refused dinner (a recent recurring theme), told me his version of events – ‘teacher hates me, wasn’t doing nuffink wrong, s’not fair.’ Stage direction – exit left.

A while later his door opened and his school tie floated downstairs, followed by the door slamming shut again.  Not the most rigorous form of protest, but it made me laugh. Which annoyed him.

I can only do so much. Nothing to do with MS. I have just returned from a visit to Staples as his pencil case was stolen and he needs the stuff for exams. He has an exam today. He told me this last night, around 10pm.

Stage direction – curtains.

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Free At Last…..

graduationThe books have been packed up, the paperwork has been shredded and my house has been cleared of post-it notes and last-minute scribbles.

I sat my last ever university exam on Wednesday and it’s all over bar the marking. It’s been a rocky old road to get here. It was a part-time six-year degree and as regular readers will know, I had a fully-functioning brain until two years ago when MS came along and messed around with it.

Since then, it’s been an uphill struggle. I nearly gave up after five years, but quite fancied the (Hons) after my name so ploughed on for another year. It was worth it though and the sense of achievement has been incredible, as was the bottle of bubbly I had waiting in the fridge.

I’ve been lucky. My MS nurse has written a letter in my defence, something along the lines of, ‘…please excuse Stumbling, her cat ate her study notes and her brain doesn’t work properly’. Which is just as well. I struggle to remember my shopping list, so how on earth was I supposed to remember a whole year’s worth of facts, ready to regurgitate onto blank paper? In my shaky handwriting?

It didn’t help when a fellow student emailed me the day before asking if I had revised Esping Anderson. If I knew what it/he/she was, perhaps I might have. As it was, to me it just sounded like an Ikea dining table.

Anyway, I arrived at the exam centre, ignored the last minute swotters, and took my seat. I set out my pens and bottle of water. The woman next to me set out a lucky teddy, three bottles of water, two packets of nuts and a bag of chocolate buttons (where did she think we were, a cinema?). The clock on the wall ticked round to 10am and we turned our papers over.

I was obviously in the wrong exam, sitting the wrong paper and toyed with the idea of pretending to faint. But as if by magic, the words rearranged themselves and they actually started to make sense. Three hours later, and with a lot of padding and random waffling, I was done. I clicked my pen off and shuffled the papers together.

As I left, I noticed the woman sadly pack her teddy away. I stumbled out the building, high on relief and headed home to google Esping Anderson.

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Blood, Sweat And No Ideas

exam stressIn a little over two weeks, I’ll be sitting what I hope will be my final ever exam. A three hour written paper.

Having the attention span of a gnat is proving problematic though.

I’ve spent hours (days, weeks) creating the most fabulous study notes. Colour-coded, bullet-pointed, succinct. They really are quite lovely. I settle myself down, ready to commit some facts to memory. And that’s the problem. My memory has taken a long sabbatical and I’ve got no idea when it’s coming back.

I read a few study points and my brain is full. Maybe I’ll just rest my eyes for five minutes. An hour later, I wake up with a start, study notes still clutched in my hands. All hope of absorbing essential nuggets of knowledge by osmosis fades. I look over past exam papers with a growing sense of horror. What hope do I have of writing dazzling answers when I can’t even understand the questions?

I had such high hopes when I started the university course six years ago. I whizzed through the first four years, feeling smug when I achieved pretty decent essay and exam scores. This was part of my Plan – a new career path which would grow alongside The Teenager, so come graduation, I would be ready for the next stage, an MA. Then, when The Teenager reached 16, I would step in to a wonderful new job.

Thanks to MS, those dreams now lie in tatters, and my so-called career path has become overgrown and inaccessible. But, hey, I’ve never been one to give up that easily. I’ll do something completely different. Just not quite sure what yet. A non-stressful job that utilises all my talents? I’m thinking cake tester (nah, not enough chocolate in that one, I’ll try the other one, ta very much) or a flat shoe expert, where I can try out the very latest styles and give them a thumbs up or down and keep the ones I like.

In the meantime, exam day is fast approaching and my brain is melting under the pressure. I daydream about what life will be like after 1pm on October 9th. I will be free! I will ceremoniously burn all my study notes and raise a toast to the last six years. Despite everything, I will have made it through.

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The Plugholes Are Now Sparkling….

….I have also done three loads of laundry, washed all the cushion covers, baked a banana and walnut loaf, cleaned the fridge, shredded a huge pile of paperwork and sorted out my kitchen cupboards.

Domestic diva? I wish. It appears I would rather pluck a bunch of yucky hairs from the plugholes with a wooden barbecue skewer than sit down and study.

I have one year left of a six-year part time degree course. I could have graduated last year, without honours, but I’m awkward like that. Or a masochist. University officially started on Saturday, but I didn’t. I tried. I laid out all the books, printed off loads of information, stocked up on post-it notes, new pens, a brand new folder.

I sit at my desk, scrolling through the online learning guides, thinking, ‘oh, how interesting’ for about 15 seconds, then click on to my Twitter feed instead. Yesterday I sat down to read the newspaper for five minutes and an hour later I had read it from cover to cover. Who knew the letters page and obituaries could be so fascinating?

I can blame MS for this, but only partly. At the end of the last academic year I was in the middle of a pretty major relapse, the steroids were keeping me up all night and my brain was in meltdown. It refused to remember one single fact, one theory. I struggled through and gleefully chucked the notes in the bin after the exam. Last July. Now, 7 months later, it’s hard to pick up the thread again.

The thought of planning and writing an essay fills me with dread. Researching, indexing, referencing all seem like scientific impossibilities. I have printed off our official Harvard reference guide (all 35 pages of it) and have only read up to page 8.

To prove I could do it, I pulled out all my essays from last year. Bad move. Who wrote these? They were pretty good and I was impressed until I realised I had written them. My standards were obviously a lot higher back then.

I will muddle through. I will play with the post-it notes and highlight noteworthy points in my books. I am hoping that if I read the same pages over and over again I will absorb the facts by osmosis. Until then, I have the vacuum cleaner filter to wash and lightbulbs to polish….

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