My classmates from my English lit class were discussing the midterm both before and after class. Before, we were discussing the texts (poetry, essays, a novel). Which passages we thought would be important (hands down thought that Pride and Prejudice would trump poetry). She told us that it was going to be short answer questions and all we would have to do is identify the author, the title of the work and a short summary of the excerpt.

Well… Let’s just say that it wasn’t entirely true. We were handed a small booklet of lined paper. Then we were handed the actual midterm sheet. “Choose five of the follow six passages to write about…” We had to identify the author and title of the text. Okay, fine that’s cool, she told us about that. Analyze it. Yes, yes, that’s good too. “Explain and give reasons why this text falls under the writing norms of the time period.” A what now? Oh, and it wasn’t exactly a ‘short summary’. I would call a ‘short summary’ to be about a page. She asked us, at the beginning, to write approximately three pages for each passage. So three pages… five of six passages… fifteen pages. In fifty minutes. So ten minutes per passage, with three pages per passage, that equals out to be approximately 3.33 minutes per page. And this is if we don’t have to pause and think. Or flip the page. Or remember to breathe.

Needless to say, I did the most obvious passages first (two from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, one from Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal – I got his name wrong, I put down John without a last name, whoopsies). The next few were a little more tricky though. But by that point I had three of five done. Yay, excellent? Not really. At that point I had done numbers 2, 3 and 6. The next one I tackled was number 4, which was a passage from a poem. I didn’t recognize it. Why? I later go through my notes and found the poem in question. It was not one of the major passages in the poem and nor was it one of the passages that best represented the overall theme of the poem. So for that one, I had the analysis, why it fit great into the 18th century but I didn’t have an author name or the title. So that’s four down, only one more to go!

Only problem was, when I was debating between passages number 1 and 5, the professor announced that there were five more minutes.


I mentally flipped a coin. Picked number 5 and started writing. I bullshitted it. Along with which poem and what the author’s name was (I originally thought it was Thomas Grey’s An Elegy in a Church Courtyard – that was actually #4). So I bullshitted that. Finished it in five minutes. I did look over my writing for the first four, so those were okay (still half-assed/bs’d though). So yeah. It’s been a very long time since I’ve had to stay until the very end of an exam to write an exam. I normally have time to spare.

But like I said… 10 minutes per passage. Let’s say you take like a minute (and that was apparently generous) to do the thinking, that’s still only 3 minutes of writing per page. She says that she’s going to try to get them back to us at the upcoming Monday.

I could really care less. Luckily it’s only the first midterm and luckily it’s not worth too much. Granted, it’s still worth quite a bit (I believe it’s either 10% or 20%), but at it was only the first midterm – the second one is worth a lot more.

My classmates and I discussed the midterm after we had all finished. One admitted to writing “Fuck this.” at the very end of their third paragraph because they could not, for the life of them, remember anything about the poems. We all did the obvious ones (Jane Austen). One of them didn’t recognize A Modest Proposal – and started mentally kicking themselves for it. Another vocalized that they thought it was the most difficult English midterm that they had ever written. We all concurred.

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