Exam insanity

The packed Greenwich Library … a complete lack of any high school social event … endless stacks of paper and used coffee cups scattered around my room … yes, these are all the sure signs that midterms are unfortunately here.

I firmly believe that any high school student will agree with me that this is the worst weekend of the year. Actually, scratch that because these last two weeks are the worst of the year.

On top of having to start studying for exams, last week students had to deal with tests in most subjects as teachers tried to cram in the last assessments of the semester. Then, exam review days on Thursday and Friday forced us to pack in all seven classes to our usually five-period school days. Even though nearly all students would agree that having those days free to study would be a much better way to spend time, this is how it was done.

When I woke up before going to school on Friday, I instantly recognized the confusing feeling of the typical excitement for the weekend being repressed by the weight of exam studying.

You don’t really have to be a student to “experience” exams. The so-called exam atmosphere can be found right in central Greenwich, at the library we high school students all know and “love.”

During exam time, the library is converted from the usual eclectic gathering of townspeople with the occasional high school studier into a scene which eerily resembles the Brunswick or Greenwich Academy library or cafeteria. Students pour in the doors and occupy the couches, that upper level overlooking US-1 and the jewel room, hoping the library will provide maximum study efficiency.

Unfortunately, I had to learn the hard way that this assumption is dead wrong. While I thank the library for extending hours during exam time, there is no place more distracting than the Greenwich Library during exam week.

One is bombarded by long conversations to avoid studying, queries like “Do you take AP Environmental Science? I need help with unit 5” and requests to “come join our study group,” which inexorably turn into course-complaint sessions, progressively more riddled with swear words and teacher-hating.

There was a short period of time, a time of absolute triumph, when we were under the impression that midterms would be canceled because of Hurricane Sandy, but our hopes were quickly shattered. But just like a failing grade on my AP U.S. History exam and the classic emotional breakdown from an ill-prepared student during the pre-exam cram, this week is inevitable and feels as real as can be.

The exam experience, however painful it may be, has always been a somehow surreal, or at least intriguing, period for me. Somehow through every stressful moment of dread, the whole experience becomes, I don’t want to say it, but — fun.

Actually, I take that back. A more accurate term would be entertaining or fascinating … well, maybe entertaining and/or fascinating for me at least. I can’t say this is the general consensus among students, but I believe the constant pressure to decide between sleep balance and study time, observing freshmen going in with absolutely no idea what they’re doing, the “I actually know this, I’m ready” student, the “I am so ****ed guys. I am so ****ed” guy and the ultimate moment of freedom on Friday at 11 a.m. (or 3 p.m. for unlucky students with conflicting exam schedules), have become such a recognizable experience for me that they really are entertaining.

I wouldn’t willingly ever put myself into exams. After all, the “interesting experience” part of it following the weekend euphoria all gets flushed down the drain when you actually get your grades back.

But exam week is for me, and probably many other students, an integral part of the high school experience.

Although there isn’t a proper word to describe my mixed feelings of intrigue, hatred, acceptance, denial, and overall ambivalence to exams, there hasn’t been any event in my life that compares in any way, good or bad, to the crazy, all-out, emotional, and intense week of midterm exams.


Henry Haig is a junior at Brunswick School.

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