Taking Tests (en Francais)

Yikes. What I can only assume is midterm season in the french semester is upon me. This… is cause for alarm. Because frankly, taking these tests is HARD. Harder then Bates midterms, but only for one reason: that I’m not familiar with the system. At Bates, I am a meticulous planner. I do so many things (clubs, plays, classes, etc) that every minute must be planned out perfectly. And I thrive because of it! Being able to plan out exactly when I’ll brainstorm for a paper, when I’ll outline it, when I’ll draft it, when I’ll submit it for notes from the professor, and when I’ll pass in a final copy helps me live day to day without worry, knowing that I’ve planned and I’ll be able to complete my work satisfactorily and on time.

Things are different here. Mostly due to my unfamiliarity to their system, their way of thought, testing process, I feel helpless at times to ensure my success. Last Tuesday I took my first devoir sur table, which was a three hour in-class essay. All we knew before getting there was it would be on Diderot’s La Religieuse; even when another student asked the professor if it would be about the story, the author, or the political climate at the time of writing, he just laughed and told us it could be on anything! I read the book, in English and French. So in my studying I wasn’t focused on memorizing each happening in the story of a young woman and the terrors she faces while being shuffled from convent to convent. What I instead directed my attentions towards was the structure.

The professor had taken a lot of time to detail the “plan” — an outline/draft that French students write before recopying everything onto a final draft. This plan has a fully written out intro and conclusion, three large sections (a statement in favor of the thesis, a problematic against it, and a resolve) and within each, smaller subsections outlined out with examples. I took this very seriously; I worked hard on my plan because I assumed we had to pass it in, otherwise why would it be so specifically taught? If it was just a rough draft, couldn’t it be done any old way that worked? Next thing I know, there is only 15 minutes left and I’m barely recopying my second paragraph. I start to freak out. I’ve never had trouble with time management before. I barely could understand what had happened– I was convinced that the clock hadn’t been adjusted for daylight savings time and I had, in fact, an hour and 15 minutes to go. No dice. Frantically cutting and scribbling my conclusion, I was the last to pass in my pile of papers. My professor came up to me, and with a laugh said “All you American students do the same thing! You don’t need to pass in the plan…” I must have at this point been so entirely dumbfounded and sad looking, because he asked me, with kindness, if I’d finished. When I stammered “kind of” he looked at me for a few more seconds and then (THANK GOODNESS) said “you know what, why don’t I just take the plan too, just to see.” ***these conversations all happened in French, but I translated for you, dear readers.

I just really messed up. I didn’t manage my time well. I wasn’t used to that type of test. The time snuck up on me. I’m not upset– I’ll get what I get. But at least I know how to better manage my time (ie don’t put so much effort into the plan) for the next one!

Next up: tomorrow morning I have a reading quiz on all of the books for my comparative lit class. Spent my day today doing a lot of reading. Bring it on, Sorbonne!

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About nbrouder
I'm a senior at Bates College getting ready for thesis and the real world!

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