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June 12th 2019
I recently rediscovered by Exam Diary, a part of this page where I documented the process of taking exams in each of my three years at Warwick University. I read it in its entirety yesterday, and while some of it seems a trifle obscure - I rattle on a bit about limsups for a while; these days I couldn't tell you what those are, although they sound like something Co-op might sell to stave off a cold - and some of my bold predictions turned out to be way off (including one made in the same sentence that I suggest I won't be making predictions any more), there's plenty that still chimes today.
Today, in case you were wondering, was the day of my first Masters exam, on Analytic Number Theory. My first proper exam for eight years and my first maths exams for 12 years, but some things don't change: in each of the three years of Warwick exams I noted that the first exam didn't seem to go as well as hoped, and that's the case again today. Unlike those other times, though, I don't have any other exams coming up - not, at least until next year - since I'm studying through the Open University at a slow one-module-a-year pace at the moment.
Before you get too worried about me, I would say that I set the bar pretty high for myself. In terms of maths exams, anyhow. When it comes to other things - dress sense, say, or how I often I push a hoover around - the bar is resolutely low, but exams-wise I like to go into the test knowing that I can handle more or less anything they throw at me. The thing that rankles today is that, actually, I could have handled more of it than I actually did.
To begin my woes, such as they are: there were six questions, of which I had to do four. In the two practice papers I'd done all six, so hadn't really honed my skills at choosing which ones to tackle, and that was my first mistake - in the end I only left out one question (I'll explain later why 6 - 2 = 5) and, glancing through it after the time had run down, I realised that it was probably the second easiest on the paper and I should have been able to get pretty close to full marks on it without too much difficulty. Bah.
Anyways, I got stuck on the final part of one of the questions, and decided that (having plenty of time) I might as well start another one fresh rather than spend more time trying to figure out the one I was stuck on - hence why I ended up trying 5 questions rather than 4 - and, having done that, I then got stuck on the final part of the next question I chose. As above, this could have been avoided if I'd chosen the easy question rather than the hard ones - although, in my defence, it's generally not easy with a lot of these to tell if they're going to be easy or hard before you're already mired in them. Having got stuck twice, and with about 40 minutes left of the 3 hours, I decided not to start the sixth question and instead to keep working on the two I was stuck on; in the end I got somewhere towards an answer on one of them, which may or may not pick up a reasonable number of marks but I'm pretty sure wasn't what the exam-setter had in mind.
With time ticking down, I decided to check my answers. Smart, right? Well, not so much, given that I changed an answer that was probably correct to one that (as I realised as I walked back to the railway station afterwards) very much wasn't, as I'd made an entirely facile error, probably panicking a bit under time pressure.
All in all, the exam has probably gone reasonably well. I have no idea what Open Uni do with their curves, but ignoring any grade manipulation I imagine I've got somewhere in the 70s (this prediction may, like others before it, come back to bite me). But it's frustrating, because I know I should really have got about 10 marks more than I did, and I won't have another chance to demonstrate what I've learned (the assignments, for which I got an average 85, don't count towards the grade). All those evenings and weekends of study, and days of revision, and it all comes down to a couple of silly mistakes on a Wednesday morning in a Mercure hotel.
On the bright side, I did better than the other two people who were due to sit this exam in Bristol, because they didn't actually show up. Anyways. One down, five to go. I'll see you next year.

what am I listening to?
Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent - Lewis Capaldi
what am I reading?
Brown at 10 - Anthony Seldon
what am I watching?
Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool
January 2019
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