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Friday, 12 May 2017

The Italy Exam Process

One of the things I was most nervous about regarding my study abroad placement were the exams. In England, you kind of know where you stand with exams; they're usually written, you get a couple of questions to answer and loads of information about them beforehand. In Italy, exams are very different and can vary subject to subject, so I thought I would write a little post just going over the basics and what I have learnt since being here. I heard a lot of horror stories prior to actually sitting an exam, such as the Italian students choosing to watch the erasmus students' exams as it is apparently funny to see them struggle (something which was disproved by my Italian classmates; they are just as worried about passing as you are, and this isn't year 9...) or that if the teacher didn't recognise your face, they would immediately fail you.
This is obviously not an extensive post as I am only speaking from my personal experience and a couple of comments from my friends with theirs', but it will at least give you a brief outline of what sort of thing you can expect when you start your erasmus placement in Italy!


The most important thing to remember regarding your exams in Italy is TO.SIGN.UP. It is not like in England whereby your choosing the course automatically signs you up for the exam; here you must sign up a certain time before hand and the teacher will take a register before you can even do it. This is the only way to ensure that you actually get your mark.
The sign up process varies university to university; in Bergamo and Bologna it is done online, where as in Perugia you have to physically go and sign up somewhere as it is a very old university. In Bergamo, you have to answer a quick questionnaire before you can proceed with the enrolment process which is basically like a feedback form as to whether you thought the teaching was good, the content relevant... you get the gist. I received an email in semester 1 from the erasmus coordinator telling us exactly how to do this, but if worst comes to worst you can always ask a classmate.


Exams in Italy are generally oral rather than written. This is good, and bad. Good in the sense that you can attempt to guide the exam in your favour and the marks are easier to get as it isn't one question set in stone, but bad because you don't have the luxury of time to really think about your answer before you write it down.
However, there are also written exams, in-class assignments and presentations. You can often opt to do one or the other, which is worth doing as if you fail, you can always do the exam anyway to try and regain some marks.


There is a LOT of required reading in Italy, probably because you do not have to be an 'attending' student to pass the course. For each exam I have sat, they have been pretty strict about you actually doing it too, and some teachers even make you bring the book to the exam to make sure you haven't Spark Note-ed or used a PDF online. I've been very fortunate in that the subjects I have chosen either haven't had THAT much extra reading or have allowed you to choose between studying a book and doing an assignment of some sort, but in Bergamo for sure they have information online including how the exam is set out, so you can check before you commit.


Again, nowhere near as strict as England where you get handed a date and just have to put up with it - regardless of whether it is your 21st birthday or not (me). In Italy you get a choice of about four or five different dates, but you are recommended to do the first one so that if you do mess up, you can always resit. However, don't be surprised if your teacher asks you to come back on a different date because the exam is overenrolled; obviously there is only one of them and maybe around 200 of you, and you are literally given the start time of the exam, not a specific one. You could end up sitting around for hours, or you could get in first and manage to get it over and done with.


Your notes are your lifeline; or at least, your way of proving to Manchester that you've actually done the work. As there are no registers for the majority of courses, Manchester will expect you to bring your notes as proof of attendance/work if you do fail a unit. It is really quite normal for students to fail at least something, seeing as you are not only dealing with hard subjects (I found out recently that most of my courses have been Masters level) but you're having to sit exams you're not used to and speak in a language which isn't your mother tongue. As well as giving you the best chance at passing the exam (unless you have some super memory skills) they essentially provide the essential information you need to get into final year without having to do any extra credits - and besides, who the f wants to be doing that in final year?!
Most Italian students bring the notes with them to exams, as you are often left waiting around outside for potentially hours until your name is called, but I don't believe you can actually use them.

  • Getting to know the teacher will always help you in the exam. Obviously in some cases you are in huge classes and will not actually get to speak to the teacher one on one, but getting your face recognised and trying to form some sort of relationship with the teacher won't do you any harm.
  • You must tell the teacher you are an erasmus student at the beginning of the course, so that you aren't met with any nasty surprises when it comes to the end of the semester. The course outline usually states that erasmus students are encouraged to introduce themselves; this doesn't mean standing up in front of everyone - just go to the teacher at the end of the class, tell them you're an erasmus and ask if there's anything you need to know. 
  • Making friends with your Italian classmates also won't hurt, but I do understand why this could be quite intimidating. I have only spoken to Italian students through my English taught classes, but have found out that two of them are actually coming to Manchester for their erasmus placement this September, which is obviously amazing!
  • Don't expect things to go smoothly. This is Italy; pretty much everything is a bit unorganised to say the least and exams are no different. My friends have told me stories of sitting on the floor, having to get up and move so that people can leave the room and people just chatting amongst themselves in the middle of the exam; there is none of the 9/11 Memorial Ground Security Team style procedures and I have seen loads of students getting their phones out during timed assessments.
  • Try not to stress; if you don't pass, the year doesn't count towards your degree classification anyway, and whilst that obviously isn't a reason to just say fuck it and do nothing, it does alleviate bit of the pressure. 
  • If possible, ask the teacher if you can sit in and watch another student sit their exam first to get an idea of what it may be like. Depending on the teacher, they may be happy for you to do this or they might say no, but its worth asking as although this isn't something you'd ever be able to do in England, it seems to be fine in Italy and can help you understand the process better for your own exam.
Like I mentioned at the beginning, this post is in no way the ONLY things you can expect from your exams, but just what I have experienced to give you a bit of an idea. To me, the exams here are actually a lot easier - especially as most of my classes have not required any extra essays at all - and my best tip would be to try and build a relationship with the teacher, as they are often a bit nicer to students who go out of the way to make an effort in class. If anyone has any questions, feel free to send me an email and I will be happy to help, as I am more than aware of how stressful the few months build up to moving abroad can be!

Also - bit off topic but can we just all admit how amazing Harry Style's new album is?! I've been playing it on repeat, I am SO impressed by it!
Lauren Gibbins
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[name=Lauren Gibbins] [img=Your Image Url Here] [description=I'm Lauren, I'm a 21 year old student from Manchester currently studying in Italy for my erasmus year abroad.] ( ( (bloglovin=

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