Consolidation: (noun) solidification, strengthening, combination or union of multiple entities, an undefined stretch of time following the semester at UCT where lectures end but final exams are still anywhere from 5-20 days away.

The end of the semester is here. Last week Tuesday, the lectures for semester one of 2015 ended at the University of Cape Town. However, the semester is not over. While I am accustomed to a ten-week quarter at UCI followed immediately on the eleventh week with a sprint of finals, that is not how it is done here. Rather, there is consolidation. And then final exams.

Of course, people do a terribly poor job of describing many of the hoops through which one jumps here. I hope I can pass along some of what I have learned.

Consolidation is a period where instructors (lecturers, course conveners, professors, what-have-you) consolidate your course grades so far and determine if you have DP'd.

This is neither the attempt at viral advertising Dr. Pepper made a few years back nor the much more adult concept that it was mistaken for. It is entertaining for some of us when professors and students start talking about their hope for DP before the end of the semester.

This city is full of entendre'd places named after unfortunately named figures of the past. See the Bolus family
Rather, DP stands for "duly performed." Each course syllabus has, in addition to the outline of the class and the grading breakdown, the requirements to DP the class. For example, my archaeology course required completion of 85% of practicals (including the final field trip practical) and the research paper. If a student fails to meet the DP requirements (receives "DPR"), they are not allowed to write the final exam.

So, consolidation is partially a time for grading catch-up by professors and issuing of DP.

It is also a couple weeks during which we are allegedly studying for final exams. I know of loads of students (in fact, many of the Americans) who have run off on quick trips to the Cederberg or Namibia or whatnot. It has been an interesting exercise putting in time to sufficiently study for my exams while at the same time not burning myself out and finding my brain shut-down.

I am actually two exams down, with one left to go.

Some tips:
  • Keep track of where the location of the exam is. There is an online reference. Do a google search for UCT exam timetables (the site URL is weird). You then accept their terms and conditions and enter your student ID, and the site brings up your exam schedule with locations. The exams do not seem to ever be held in the same classroom where the course was conducted. With loadshedding, that venue may change further.
  • Bring layers and possibly even a blanket. The rooms are quite cold. The Sports Centre, where my next exam will be written, is open to the elements. There is a roof, but the wind cuts right through the open sides.
  • Turn off your cell phone and leave it in your bag. They are very serious about that here.
  • Apparently, it is incredibly bad form to write an exam in pencil. Make sure you have functioning pens. I realize this may not be a big deal for some, but I do pretty much everything in pencil.