Collections (for non-Oxonians, these are simply pre-term tests) are over, and the sun and blue sky bring some tranquility into our Finals-troubled hearts. It is -- both the weather and this calm -- a brief respite, but one I am glad for. Another four weeks of slog, and I will be sitting what might just be the last significant examinations of my life.
I was never really good at examinations, until the only time it mattered -- my IB (International Baccalaureate) finals. Before that, I had serially underperformed. That memory is all but wiped-out in the minds of my family and friends, but I remember it well. I was nearly last in class when it came to my PSLE (Primary School Leaving Examinations, for my non-Singaporean readers). I didn't even come close to topping the class for anything in secondary school. The reason for this, and I don't want to sound too much like a revolutionary here, was that I had realised early on that I wasn't very interested in the school syllabus. I much preferred reading whatever else I could get my hands on. In those days, that truly meant anything: I recall being enthralled by the immunology chapter of a secondary school biology textbook when I was still in primary school. (And I still have a strange fascination for immunology now. As I say to many people, it's simply warfare!) Forcing the Lord of the Rings into as many essays as I could was another notable achievement -- much more interesting than whatever malformed piece of writing we were meant to contemplate. This (to others) inexplicable inability to deliver expected results didn't trouble me, and (god bless them) didn't trouble my parents either. As others sprinted ahead, acquiring marks in the 80s and 90s, I swung between the low 60s and the surprising 70s. (Of course, by Oxford standards that's perfectly fine...) I don't remember caring much -- but perhaps I'm downplaying those feelings with the leveling gaze that the present projects towards the past.
It was well worth it. My wayward interest in things outside the curriculum, and my refusal to learn the syllabus, has paid off richly, in great and bountiful dividends. And it is a method of study I recommend to all.