See that? That weird postmodern egg? That, my friends, is the Spacedome of Learning. It is a library of the FU. But not just any library–no, that is the philology library. My library.

Here’s the inside:

Cool, right?

What was less cool was the DSH (Deutsche Sprachprüfung für die Hochschulzugang), a big nasty test that hopefully will prove that I can speak German because the college degree and other certification I had weren’t good enough. I was sort of concerned about it because (a) it’s semi-standardized, so while the study materials I used were similarish to the test I was going to take, they weren’t just like it, and (b) Frequently the writing section requires you to describe a graph outlining some technical process like an alternative energy production system (being Made in Germany, the test skews heavily toward environmental-science-related topics) or, as in one particularly heinous practice exam, the process by which crops are processed into ready-to-eat canned meals.

The actual test was fine. Hard, but fine. Mostly, here’s what impressed me:

Reading section – 90 min

Break – 30 min

Listening section – 50 min

Break – 30 min

Writing section – 70 min

Time allotted for the test – 8 hours

Time taken for the test – 6 hours

Much of the downtime was avoidable administrative time, since the proctors (of which there were two) insisted on personally handing out each section of the test to each of the 340 test-takers–and I know it was 340 because they said so when expressing their surprise to each other that they had run out of tests. That happened twice. More time was wasted asking stupid questions (one girl wanted to know if prepositions and conjunctions should be included in the word count; another didn’t bring a pen. To the exam that single-handedly determines whether he goes to college or not). Still, I’m baffled by the math that went–or, more likely, most definitely did not–go into this.

 

 I was dreading having to write about engineering or computer programming or something else. But then the reading section was passed out, and the passage was about linguistics. Specifically, for those of you who care, about the trend of less-spoken languages being more grammatically complex than more widely-spoken ones, and about the myth (and busting thereof) that all languages are equally complex. It was a really interesting article that would have been lots of fun if I hadn’t been so anxious about the karmic smack-down that I was surely about to receive. But it never really came. The listening lecture was about blushing. Apparently 10% of the population is deathly afraid of blushing. It’s called erythrophobia/Erythmophobie (not to be confused with arithmophobia, which is what I have). The writing was an essay about juvenile crime and how to fix it, and they gave us a page of different statistics, statements, and graphs that we could draw from or not, as suited our theses. Since the only clock in the room (WHAT.) was blocked from students’ view by a hanging projector (DOUBLE WHAT.), I didn’t manage my time very well and wound up not concluding the essay as neatly as I would have liked. But that was the only thing that really went wrong.

So now the professors will take 3 weeks to grade the exams, and then they’ll post the list of students who are invited to the final (speaking) portion. Unfortunately there’s very little hope of self-congratulation or relaxation just yet, because instead of averaging your scores or doing anything else that a reasonable person might do, they take your lowest-scoring section and make that your grade for the whole test. So it doesn’t matter if you’re the brightest-eyed, bushiest-tailed little student in the hall and make perfect scores on three out of four sections; if you draw a blank during the speaking section or arrive late to the listening section and miss part of the lecture (HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN), then…there went your future. Ohhh well.

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