Below is a transcript of a note I compiled shortly after the exams of the second semester in June/July 1978 as a reminder that it wasn’t all plain sailing, and that from time to time I could easily have failed if Lady Luck hadn’t been on my side. Apologies for certain translations – some of the subject names i’m not sure if I got them converted properly into English.
I have noticed that afterwards [i.e. after the exams] I tend to forget how hard I sometimes had to study to achieve the exam result that I got. Maybe it will help for future occasions if I describe how much work it cost for each of the subjects in the second semester .
Van Peteghem [non-ferrous metallurgy] was the first one, and although I had seven days to do it in, I still had to revise lead and zinc for the first time, as well as the last third of copper [it always takes a lot longer on the first revision]. It took me quite some time, so that in the end I only had 3½ days left for the proper revision work. After the first round of proper revision I felt so discouraged that I didn’t do a thing for half a day. On the last day of revision I was lucky that it finally clicked. I got up early the next morning and did one last quick flying revision.
After the exam I didn’t do much else for the rest of the day, apart having a quick glance in the evening to see what I needed to cover for analytical chemistry. I learnt from the panic preceding the previous exam and started to learn things off by heart from the start. There were no problems timewise, and at the end of the revision I was of the opinion that I was well on top of the subject. And indeed the exam went without a glitch.
For a while it looked like the preparation for De Ridder [topic had something to do with mechanics, but not sure exactly what] was going to a different kettle of fish. I only had one and a half days for revision, of which I wasted half a day because I wasn’t sure how to approach the subject matter. So I decided to concentrate on parts of the theory that seemed to lend themselves well for exam questions, and then spend a short while on stuff that might come in the practical exam part. The next morning I felt a bit uneasy after I’d done the final revision and still had some spare time, because i had skipped the theory bit of piston compressors. So I decided to come to grips with the calculations and try and understand the control methods involved, and guess what ? I got that one for the theory question, so relief all round. The practical exam question took a lot more work, meaning that after being examinated for some five hours I was too tired to do any more in the way of revision the same day.
Meaning that I only had two days left to cram all of Ceramics into my head. Given that there’s a lot of detail to master for this subject, time was again rather tight. It took me one and a half days for the first round of revision, with a repeat revision taking the rest of the same day. A final revision the next morning proved that I had come to grips with the subject in the end.
Again I took a break of half a day, or the rest of that day, to recuperate, which would leave me 3½ days, something I considered sufficient to tackle the subject of instrumentation. The next day I didn’t have too much trouble to revise electrical measurements, even though it was slow going. The next day, however, I hit the buffers with transistors, which I really had trouble getting my head around. In the end I restricted myself to doing counting circuits and part of operational amplifiers. The next day I then tackled the hard to digest bits of the syllabus, at least the ones that I could understand. In the afternoon I started the final revision and completed it the next morning starting at 4am and finishing at noon – Colle’s exam was the only one that took place in the afternoon. At this stage I was rather concerned that there were many parts of the syllabus I didn’t understand at all, and it was just impossible to learn everything of by heart. That could have meant a big fail, but in the end luck was on my side, and I got of scot-free when I got asked questions from the part of the syllabus that I DID understand.
That meant only one subject left to do, with plenty of time to complete it. So I had a weekend break, returning to my revision on the Sunday. The last exam was Mechanical Operations by De Coninck, and I had 4 days to cover it. I’d finished the first round of revision in 2½ days, which took a little longer than you would expect for a fairly minor topic. So I felt it was OK to take the Tuesday off, leaving me all of Wednesday for the final round(s) of revision. Turns out I had miscalculated how long it would take, because I needed to revise non-stop from 8am to 11pm. So to make sure that could fit in a last revision prior to the exam, I got up at 4am and found that I’d completed it in no more than 2½ hours, leaving me with 2 hours to spare before the exam. Still, if you’re going to miscalculate the shorter than expected revision is to be preferred over the longer than expected one.
At least I had the satisfaction that this was the last revision session of the semester and, as it turned out, for the year.
Coda – in the end I passed that year with 68%. All in all, the outcome of my six years at university was as follows :
1973/74 Year 1 – 1st sitting abandoned, resit 48.5%
1974/75 Year 1 repeat – 68%
1975/76 Year 2 – 61.5% (after deliberation, must have had a marginal failure on one of the minor subjects)
1976/77 Year 3 – 68.5%
1977/78 Year 4 – 68% (the main topic of this blog)
1978/79 Year 5 – 75.5% (points tally helped by thesis and fewer non-metallurgical subjects)