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At two this afternoon, I emerged from a neighbouring school’s assembly hall, finally free. My International Studies exam was over. There is absolutely nothing more I can do to boost my mark, except perhaps to uncover the identity of all the International Studies examiners and brainwash them into giving me full marks on the exam. That sounds extremely difficult, highly illegal and ultimately impossible, so I’m not going to do that. Even if I did find a way to manage it, I think the guilt I’d feel as a result would drive me insane, and that would definitely not help me with my goal of getting into university.

As for the exam itself? Well, it could have been better, but that’s not to say I think I did badly. All exams could be that little bit better, especially essay-driven ones like International Studies. There is no such thing as a perfect essay, so there is no such thing as a perfect International Studies exam. Not that I really think I approached perfection. Nope, thoroughly middle of the road was I.

The essay topics were really good. I’d made the mistake of reading revision guides the night before the exam, and they’d indicated that I’d have to discuss a statement about terrorism. I wasn’t going to be able to do that. Luckily, the real questions were very generic — I wrote about the extent to which the US has been successful in pursuit of its objectives in the War on Terror. I adhered to a strict plan (for once!) until I realised I hadn’t covered “collateral damage” — and who forgets to do that? So, I crowbarred in a paragraph about it. Having to do this left me somewhat disheartened. Subsequently realising I’d fallen fifteen minutes behind disheartened me further.

You see, the International Studies exam is very, very long. You can complete the whole thing in the time allotted, but you have to know your stuff like the back of your hand, have a wrist immune to injury, and write like the wind. Falling fifteen minutes behind was obviously not going to be a help.

I tackled the “easy” extended response, hoping I’d write quickly enough to gain some ground. Unfortunately, the topic was only easy because there was tons to say about it. Having tons to say did not help me catch up. I was still fifteen minutes behind.

Rather than moving on to the harder extended responses, I decided to move on to the short answer questions. The globalisation and internationalism ones were very, very easy. Not one question on the IMF, nor the World Bank. The first Asia-Pacific question, about the difference between a nation and a state, was also easy. The second, asking me to define and provide an example of diplomacy, was a little harder. The third, asking for an example and description of an Asia-Pacific aid package, was difficult. I couldn’t think of one. Or rather, I could — the one I’d made up for the SAC, and had somehow got correct. I didn’t want to reuse my made-up aid package, even if it was correct, because I was really fuzzy on the details. (Since I made it up, this shouldn’t really be a surprise.) I left the question, resolving to think of a better example.

The Australian foreign policy questions were all easy, except that the last one almost made me choke in horror. This question asked me to explain the changes in Australian foreign policy since the 2007 election. Superficially, this doesn’t look like a horrifying question. However, when you know the answer involves “good international citizenship”, and when you’ve just spent weeks fighting the spectre of “good citizenship”, it is. Unfortunately, it really was the answer, and unless I wanted to needlessly lose four marks, I really was going to have to write about it. So I did. I wrote all about what a “good international citizen” we’re trying to be. But not happily.

After that, only 25 minutes remained in the exam — and I still had to write two essays and that question about an aid package in the Asia-Pacific. Sigh. The Australian foreign policy essay was about economic considerations since 1996; I wrote two paragraphs and couldn’t think of any more, so stopped writing. 17 minutes left now.

The remaining essay topic asked me about the impact of internationalism on a key issue. The easiest issue on the list was human rights, so I wrote as quickly and briefly as possible. Internationalism refers to a sense of common humanity, and when people feel like that, they feel like pressuring their government about human rights. This leads to governments accepting refugees and giving press conferences to condemn other governments who take rights away from people the first government has nothing to do with. They do it because they care, and they care because they’re being internationalist. Paragraph #2 was about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; paragraph #3 about the UN Security Council. Done!

With six minutes remaining, I used most of them to finally answer the question on aid deals in the Asia-Pacific. Yes, I reused my made-up answer from the SAC. Hey, if it’s correct, it’s correct…

Now with two minutes left, I returned to the incomplete essay on Australian foreign policy. I decided to draw a tenuous link between internationalism and economics, my evidence being that Australia campaigned in the WTO (an international organisation) for free trade (an economic consideration). I was still trying to make this sound plausible when the exam ended.

Yes, the exam ended! I don’t have to worry about it any more! No more studying, no more littering my desk with practice exams, no more hurting my wrist trying to write complete essays in fifteen minutes. I never even have to think about “good international citizenship” again if I don’t want to! It’s FINISHED!

Not that I don’t have year eleven exams still to do…



  1. Aw, I’m so glad that your exam is over and you can relax for a while. 🙂 I bet you’re relieved.

  2. I had to take test that sounded similar to that. I had to read 14 articles (7 for each topic) and write 2 full essays within 90 minutes. I was in such a hurry to finish that I didn’t read the directions. We had to pick ONE essay from each page (and each page had 2 essay questions). I was on my third paragraph on my second essay (2nd essay on the FIRST page) with just 20 minutes to go when I realized my mistake. That was not a very happy day at all…
    But anyway… YAY! You’re free!
    But umm… can you tell me the difference between a nation and a state please? I must have fallen asleep in class when they explained it.

  3. I still have three exams tomorrow… perhaps it would be better to say that I’m almost free. I’m not really worried about them, though.

    A nation is a people… they share cultural, ethnic, religious and/or linguistic ties. On the other hand, a state is a political process that governs a set geographic area, and the people of that area. If a nation has its own government (e.g. Japan) it’s called a nation-state. However, there are many states that govern for more than one nation (e.g. China), and many nations spread out over more than one state (e.g. the Kurds). For some reason “country” was left out of the International Studies curriculum, but Wikipedia tells me it refers to the geographic area.

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