Written By Fram Hansotia
Published: October 31, 2016
The academic year at Durham is divided into three terms: Michaelmas term, which lasts 10 weeks from October to mid-December; Epiphany term, which lasts 9 weeks from January to mid-March; and Easter term, which lasts 9 weeks from April to June.
So Michaelmas term has started properly, and everyone has settled into their daily routines of lectures, seminars and preparatory reading. The beginning of second year has been quite a steep learning curve. I have had to adjust to a significant increase in terms of workload, as well as to independent life living out of college in a shared houses. An advantage of Durham being quite a small town, is that regardless of where you decide to live, the library, lectures, shops and clubs are never more than a 20-25 minute walk away.
Second year is also a stressful year as your grades make up 40% of your final degree classification (third year counts for 60%). In first year, your grades do not contribute towards your degree, however you have to pass every module to proceed to second year. You will also need to submit your grades when applying to firms for Spring Weeks/Summer Internships, so make sure you don’t get complacent and let them slip.
Academic life consists of lectures, seminars, formative assessments, summative assessments, and final exams. Lectures are not compulsory. You may be able to get away with skipping a few, but most lecturers divulge a lot of extra information during lectures so I highly recommend you attend. Seminars/tutorials are where I tend to learn most. They are compulsory, and comprise of a tutor solving sets of pre-set problems, going into greater detail, and explaining concepts in greater depth than is done so in lectures.
Assessments at Durham are divided into Formative, Summative, and Final Exams. Formative assessments are generally submitted in Michaelmas term, and consist of essays/presentations. These are not counted towards your module mark, and are merely to help students settle into the module. Module grades are divided between summative assessments (marked essays/presentations) and final exams that are sat in June (Easter term).
I studied three modules last year that had a 40% summative assignment and 60% exam breakdown. An advantage of this system is that it reduces a lot of stress in exam season, assuming you have done well in your summatives during the academic year. I would definitely advise students selecting their modules for the forthcoming year to ensure that the modules select are not solely based on exam results.
I hope this was informative, and please leave any questions you may have in the comments section, so I can address them in the next blog.