Final exams at Surrey

Apologies again for the huge gap in between this blog post and the previous one. The reason for my lack of blogging was that I was busy with final exams, which will be the topic of this post.

For the first semester the final exam period started right after the Christmas break and it lasted for about two weeks. For the second semester the final exam period lasted about 3 or 4 weeks. The last week of lectures (week 12) mainly included revision lectures, extended office hours/drop in sessions and options day (which is an event where you get to hear about the different modules you can take the following year and discuss them with the lecturers, as well as hearing about placements). My first exam was exactly one week after option’s day and then I had my other two exams roughly 6 days apart each.

Initially I thought the long exam period was a blessing as it gave me enough time to study for every exam instead of having to stress about them all at once and not really getting any proper revision time for any of the lectures but towards the end of it I started feeling like it was more of a curse.

While I was at Berkeley I remember having a semester where I had roughly 12h of exams one day and 4h the morning after and nothing else for the rest of the week (other than a literature essay to turn in instead of a final). Exams were really stressful and my grades suffered significantly for the last two exams I took since I was exhausted at that point given that I had close to no rest in between exams. However, after I finished the last exam most of my stress was out of the way, I finished my literature essay a few minutes ahead of the deadline and then the semester was over, I spent a day packing up all of my belongings and I flew out the morning after. With such a long exam period I wasn’t as stressed about the individual exams but a few days before the last exam I felt exhausted and like I couldn’t keep going at the pace I was going at. I’d been studying and stressing all day every day for almost a month, which some people might be used to but I personally am not since other than the exams I had at Berkeley I hadn’t dealt with exams since I was 12 or so.

On the other hand, I can see why exams at Surrey might benefit from having a longer amount of time to study for them, as final exam grades tend to make up 75-80% of the final module grade (while at Berkeley final exams usually were around 40% of the final grade) so having longer to study for them might end up being a better reflection of how well the student knows the topic than having just a week to study for all classes, including new content being introduced in the very last week of lectures being examinable.

(Sidenote: I must add that I was aware about what my final exam timetable would be like at Berkeley since I decided to enrol in those specific classes so while it wasn’t ideal in any way it also wasn’t unexpected so I could have planned ahead and studied accordingly, at Surrey you get an email with your exam timetable 4 weeks before exams instead of being aware of it from the start).

Another thing that is significantly different about exams at Surrey compared to exams at Berkeley is how the grading is handled. While I don’t know the specifics about how grading takes place (I know at Berkeley grad students tend to grade exams for large classes and lecturers when the class sizes are around 30 students and I’ve heard at Surrey exams are graded by at least two different lecturers), it is significantly different from the student’s perspective. When I was at Berkeley I would get an email from gradescope about a week or two after the exam with my scanned exam showing how much I scored in each section alongside an explanation for the score and I would have 3 days to submit a regrade request if I thought a mistake had been made. A couple of days after the deadline for regrade requests final grades would be released through the university portal and a week or two after that they would be posted to our official transcripts. At Surrey final grades seem to be released a bit over a month after final exams end, you can see the grade you got for each of the final grade’s components but you don’t get to see your final exam. While having it graded by more than one person probably makes the amount of grading mistakes negligible, I’m not going to university to get a piece of paper with numerical grades, I want to learn and I think I would benefit from knowing what I did right and wrong in the final exams, especially because math builds upon itself so if you don’t have a strong foundation you’ll have a hard time later on and mistakes I made during the final exams, if I’m not made aware of them, are mistakes I’m likely to continue making in the future.

I hope this post was helpful in terms of helping you understand how exams are like at Surrey. Feel free to reach out with any questions! I’m hoping to be back to blogging consistently throughout the summer, so expect to hear about how modules involving team work, getting a job as a student in the UK and a post going over how my thoughts about Surrey have changed since my first post.