I literally just finished my finals and now I'm happy to take it easy until finals come around. For Japanese class, we had 3 days worth of testing, roughly amounting to a little over 5 hours of kanji, grammar, listening, reading, and speaking.
While I was in the middle of class today, I found it amazing how much the test meant to people. I myself got a late start studying and was up past 3 am and had to wake up at 8 today. Some of my friends back home have been cramming all weekend for their finals.
We have been taught that pieces of paper (aka tests) will determine our grades, thus our graduation (or not), leading to our potential careers, future, and ultimately happiness. I have always bought into this. But today I realized how a couple hours of our lives and a few pieces of paper can be so important to people.
Aside from the SAT and ACT, I haven't had to deal with much pressure around standardized testing, for which I am very thankful. While midterms, finals, etc seem so important, I couldn't help but to think about countries that have national college entrance exams, especially Asian ones.
In the fall, I watched a documentary on Chinese high school students that were taking the annual test. While waiting to take it, some students were hooked up to oxygen tanks, or reading over notes before they went in. Their parents (usually mothers) waited outside anxiously while they took it. Their futures were quite literally dependent on those precious hours.
One of my Japanese friends here works as a tutor at a cram school. Actually there are a lot of
Sophia students that I know doing stuff like that, teaching English, etc. Anyway, he said that most of the high school students he works at are trying to get into Sophia, Waseda, or a variety of other fairly high ranked colleges.
BUT he was quick to add that most of them probably won't get in. It is just too competitive and they just won't make the cut. Although I'm sure he has never told the students that, it was sad to hear it from him, their tutor, the one who is trying to help them get accepted. Yet he himself knows it is only an aspiration, not the reality.