Examinations in the US

Story by

Rajeev Verma

From

India

Major/Field

Natural Sciences

Level

Graduate

One of the biggest features of the flexible US education system is the variety of exams that a student encounters and thus for someone from South Asia this is one of the biggest transitions in education as an international student. The exams I faced during my undergraduate years were once in a year and it was mostly memory based.

Unfortunately, I was never really good with memory based study back home but I excelled in lab exams that required application more than rendering information from memory. The former really used to bring down my grades and I felt like an average student. I never really asked for the professors’ help because at that point I knew that their response would be a statement that was repeated over the years which was, “The exam you faced was the same one hundreds of other students faced, just work harder and you’ll be fine”.

But before arriving in the US, I was told by my education counselor that the education system here is very flexible and I might actually end up enjoying studying there. The concepts of ‘open book exam’ and ‘take-home’ exam were alien to me, and when classes started, I also became further overwhelmed by the graduate student life and the fact that I absolutely needed As in the following semesters to continue my education in that school. So, I consulted my advisor and I mentioned to him that I don’t generally do well in exams that require memorization of information. It was then that he suggested me to take up two graduate level courses that allowed open book exams as well as take home exams.

When the exams were assigned, I was told that I had an entire week’s time to complete the exam. It was at that moment I realized my true potential as a student. All the questions I answered were based on every detail that was explained in the class by my professors and access to wide variety of scientific books and articles. The relaxed atmosphere at home only helped me do well in the exam. I allotted several hours for a single question and worked on the exam until I felt I could not improve it any further.

From that exam onward, I did not look back. It really boosted my confidence since I topped the class with scores of A and A+ in the exams in a highly competitive environment. When I told my advisor about my progress he was clearly delighted but mentioned that it was not a surprise since he believed that I would succeed in an environment which required application of knowledge. That was exactly the morale boost I needed.

The point of my story is that many like me coming to the US for education would feel the way I felt, like an average student. But I personally feel that many of you will realize their true potential when you come face to face with educational structure that offers as much flexibility as the US education system. This, along with an internship will be an ideal recipe that will shape and prepare you for real-world professions.

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