Another vintage post from our archives for you to contemplate while holed up in the library…
With classes completed and a weekend now free to bemoan our misery, Bwoggers weigh in from Butler Cafe/salon: what’s worse, studying for finals or writing papers?
Remember: every essay is an open book test. With class notes, a few highlighted passages, and the wisdom of Wikipedia, writing the final paper for that morning lecture you haven’t graced with your presence since October becomes a manageable feat. For the overachiever, a few days of advance planning gives plenty of time to skim a book or two on an exhaustive syllabus. After a night’s work, you’re an experton Early Modern thought – or, at very least, you’re an expert on Descartes, whose Meditations on First Philosophy clocks in at around 70 pages– and your professor will be awed at your profound insights.Whereas the finals studier, settling down to confront that stack of unread books the morning before the test begins, will probably forget everything he wished he knew about Hobbes as soon as the clock starts ticking.
That’s another thing – essays are free of the stomach-churning anxiety that reminds you of the night before the SATs. And that nervousness doesn’t make you work faster, it only makes you stall. It’s not high school anymore, and we’re out of testing practice. Remember how you used to fire out short answers about the Monroe Doctrine? Remember how you used to diagram the stages of anaerobic respiration? Remember how you used to make flashcards? Just look at you now: struggling to make a simple comparison between Aristotle and Aquinas. Pathetic. Don’t mourn your lost youth and do what we came here to do: argue, debate, and use enough pretty language to hide what you don’t know.
Finals are the godsend of the procrastinating humanities student. You read, er… skimmed, er… sparknoted all those books, but more importantly you sat through class and based your bullshit comments on the synopsis there given by the one person who read all of The Republic. They say you’ll remember an idea if you really engage with it – well, you have! You sat at that seminar table, didn’t you? Now all that’s left to do is to review, and you’ve got plenty of time, the test is tomorrow. It’s past midnight? Ok, technically it’s today. The test is in two hours. One hour. Not ready? Too bad, you can’t make up an excuse to turn this paper in late, even if it has the potential to be a masterpiece (once you start it). You have to show up to that test. And chances are you’ll do fine. And even if you don’t, 2 hours of studying will probably get you a passing grade, while two hours of writing a paper will probably only get you half a paper. This is about time management, Butler zombies.
Ok, so the more technically or linguistically minded among us might not get many organic compounds or Italian verbs memorized in 2 hours. But think of your theoretical other option – in an alternate universe, you’d be writing a paper about the development of that Italian verb (or worse, writing a paper in Italian) or a research paper on the use of Vomitoxin, Uranocene, or Fukalite (yeah, those are real organic compounds). But if you have a final, you’ll probably be asked at most to identify what type of compound Dinocap (also real) is in. And even if you don’t prepare in advance, you know you can – exams that test you on the whole of a psychology text book, for example, are easy to read ahead on. No “here’s you paper topic, due in 72 hours.” No one will argue that computer science concepts are easy, but would you really rather be writing a paper about them?