Monday morning. Week of insanity has begun.
I must admit I’m jittery like hell. I am quite sure I am as well prepared as I can possibly be, considering the impossible setup with three exams in as many days. But I rather want the thing to start, because right now the only thing I can think of is the many ways in which this could still go wrong. For instance it’s snowing this morning, on top of frozen ground. So we went by bus and train, for what if I fall with my bike now? I only have to sprain my right wrist and I won’t be able to write the exams. But then the subway is jam-packed with people, every single one of which might give me a cold. What if I get a sore throat and can’t speak in the oral exam? In fact, I’ve become afraid of slicing bread or onions. I might cut myself.
I can’t say I’ve ever been so tense before any exam period. It must be because this fifth term was such an insane attempt at making the impossible possible at almost any prize: doing the full five courses and working two days per week while having three kids and a wife who works as well. And with the practicum assignments in both core lectures escalating entirely out of any proportion to the available time or the lecture contents, the prize was really absurdly high. More than two months of hardly being able to breathe as a result of all the stress and anxiety. And now that it’s over, but for the exams themselves, I fear above all that I might still ruin it. If I blow even one exam now, I might as well have saved me and my family all the trouble we’ve been going through these past four months.
So yeah, right now I am under a much higher pressure than usual before the exams. It’s like you’ve been walking a tightrope for 20 meters and now you’re double afraid to slip on the last couple of feet before you’re home and dry. And the timing and sequence of the exams makes it all the much harder not to fear failing. They’re all in a row, they’re all at 9 in the morning, and the one I dread most is the last, distributed systems on Thursday, by which time I’ll certainly be completely jazzed. In fact to show you the mindset I’m in, right now I am having crazy thoughts like: Architecture is my third oral exam in a row with the same professor, and I got an A+ in the first and second. Won’t he assume I expect another one and therefore be tempted to cut me down to size? Or: In two orals exams with this professor I never had to draw any diagrams. Even the law of probability suggests that I will have to, this time. And I hate drawing.
Oh well, in any case there won’t be long to wait now. The oral exams begin this morning. Mine is tomorrow, but I am again sitting in the cafeteria to study a little and listen to what today’s candidates have to say about their experience in the exam. Particularly since there is the second professor, the one obsessed with UML and NoSQL, with whom we have never yet had an exam. It’s hard to know what to expect there. Yes, I am using my co-students as guinea pigs again. But then I’ve often enough been the one to go first, with presentations, with practicum assignments, and so on. Besides, there’s three of us who are very conscientious in doing and studying their flashcards, and we routinely use the day in the cafeteria before our exam to quiz one another. The others invariably benefit just by listening to that. And my previous programming partner openly confesses that doing just that is the backbone of his exam preparation. In fact he’s here right now, sitting next to me and awaiting our input. So no, I don’t have any guilty conscience letting others go first just for once.
Let it begin.