Reading the title of this post you may be thinking "Taylor, you're crazy. A final exam is a final exam! How can the Japanese ones be that much different?!" While it is true that I am a tad bit crazy, looking back on my exam period (now that it is FINALLY over) I can say that there were actually a number of differences. Not with the actual tests exactly, but more with the format of the test taking period.
The first big difference in finals is just the number of tests and papers that I had due. At my school in America we are only allowed to take 4 classes. If you have a good reason and get permission from teachers, you maybe can take 5 classes, but most people just take 4. So for most people this translates to 4 final exams. Here in Japan, I am part of the Keio International Program. In my program we have to take a minimum of 7 classes. I decided to be overachieving and I took 10 courses this semester. For most of term this was fine. I had a little more work than my friends, but it was no big deal. But let me tell you, when it came to finals 10 courses was NOT a fun thing. Only 1 of my classes did not have a final exam. This meant that I had 4 final exams and 6 final papers (one of my teachers was mean and gave us 2 papers due for finals). You can imagine, for a girl used to having maximum 4 tests, this was a big change. I am usually not a complaining type of person, but I definitely found myself complaining about finals way more this year. I apologize to those who had to deal with my whining.
The second big difference that I found between America and Japan is the time period when testing took place. In the States finals take place during 1 set week. My school has what is called reading day (some schools have reading week) and this is a day, usually Monday before tests start, that there are no classes and everyone crams in last minute studying. Then for about a week following that day all classes have their exams or papers due. Here in Japan, I basically had finals for the whole month of January. My classes were officially over on January 20th, but some of my classes had tests before this date so my classes kept ending at different times. Additionally, a few of my papers were due after classes had ended, the last ones being due today, January 29th. This was nice because my tests and papers were spaced out, so I could work on a few at once instead of having to do them all at one time. However, this also led to a prolonged period of stress. Instead of one hard week of tests, I had a month. I think this is the part where I am also supposed to thank my dad. My dad has been the biggest lifesaver this month. I said before I had 6 papers due for finals. My dad edited ALL of them for me! Even if I sent it to him a few days before the deadline, he would still do it as quick as he could and send the paper back filled with comments to help me out. Yeah, he's pretty awesome. So thank you; you can rest for a few months now until the next finals period comes up ^_^
The last big difference that I found was I had a lot more papers compared to exams. Usually my tests back home will be short answer or essay, so I still do writing, but it is timed and you are expected to write a lot less. I maybe have 1 or 2 big final papers to do. Here in Japan I had 4 tests; 2 of these were my Japanese tests, 1 was an essay test, and the last was multiple choice. On top of this I had 6 full blown papers, the shortest of which was a minimum of 1500 words. This was a lot more writing than I am used to! I hope that my essay writing got better after this semester!
These are just a few differences that I found between finals. There also might be differences between the actual programs that are offered here at Keio since there are 3 different types of students. There are the Keio International Program students, Japanese Language Program students, and then the regular Japanese students. I think there are some differences in finals between these students as well, so if anyone is interested just let me know and I can ask around and make a blog post about that!
P.S. The tea of the day is strawberry champagne tea ^_^