Joahna Kuiper


Diploma in Artificial Intelligence for Business


United States


Technology Consulting



By Joahna Kuiper

Our First Exam

Well, we did it! Wednesday morning was our first “final” exam at Oxford (yes, I know “first” and “final” sounds like a contradiction, I’ll explain in a minute). As you may know, examination here is a VERY different experience from most any other exams experience anywhere else…

First, I offer the actual, non-emotional description of exams for the Diploma programme at Saïd, and, well, also generally what you’ll find at Oxford. It is important to note that there is an entity within Oxford University, but separate from your actual College/School, that manages exams – and when I say “manages,” I mean absolutely the administration of, and often the creation of and scoring of all examinations. Furthermore, at Oxford (being the bastion of tradition that it is), ALL of that has a clear process and air of formality to it. The exams are time limited, they are held at a specific Examinations Building, students dress in formal student examination attire (Sub Fusc – example in the photo below), there is a strict list of what may be (your student identification and pens) and may not be (smartphone, or, really literally anything other than the aforementioned ID and pens) brought to the exam, and there is NO talking in the Examination School. Exams are treated quite seriously and with much reverence. (Full description from the college here)

Joahna before the exam

In sub-fusc before the exam

This unique and strict process, in addition to the general reputation of academic quality and expectation at Oxford, gave our cohort MUCH trepidation about the exam!! Happily, our cohort is a very proactive bunch. Instantly, upon leaving the first module, we had a few WhatsApp groups, a Slack site, Dropbox folders, and Google Drives all set up by various students. Using these various communication venues, we discussed the books we had been assigned for Module 2 and the frameworks and case studies we had covered in Module 1 for weeks. But, the true, palpable anticipation in our conversations was for the arrival of the Case Study which would be the center of our first module’s final examination questions. This case study was to be delivered to us no more than exactly 2 weeks before the examination. When it arrived, I’m sure I received no less than 50 WhatsApp messages a day, and notes and schedules for study times began to digitally zoom across our devices! We discussed and analyzed and fretted over what the questions might be on the exam for days on end. When we finally arrived at school, we had reserved rooms to meet and study some more. Honestly, now that it’s over, I believe I may have both over and under prepared. Next time, less stress, but some changes to how to prepare – most of which will be practicing writing thoughts down, in a coherent structure, as fast as I can for 2 hours at a time! (Ouch! My shoulder!!)

Let me back up though and explain the “final” situation, which may be confusing given we’ve only met for class once before. There are a total of 4 actual classroom modules in the Programme. Each of these modules of the Diploma Programme is essentially an entire “course” in itself. Therefore, the examination we set when we return for the next module (like now) is the final exam for the module before. In this way, the course is distinctive in the subjects on which it focuses each time the cohort meets. But the pressure of the word “final” on the exam was just one more thing to tie a knot in my stomach while I wrote at a feverish pace.

So, while I was reminded today that the modules are distinct, it is important to note that they are also well connected in concepts. Module 2 began immediately after morning examinations and my brain was continually in the whirl of connection between what we had just spent 2 hours applying in essay and the next round of lectures and conversations in the classroom, as well as just trying to remember what I read BEFORE the study-mania took over.

I dare say, given the buzz in the halls, that while we are swimming in feelings about how we did on our first examination, we are perhaps already more excited about the next!

P.S. I’m sure we all did fine, I am surrounded by very clever people who care quite a lot about their learning, the meaning and application of what we are taught, and the standards to be met by reading at an Oxford institution, and I’m confident their exam responses reflected all of this. But, we won’t have results for weeks from now…

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