Zachyots have been featured on this blog before, but since it’s been a while and I’m waiting to find out empirically whether I’m going to study for my Tatar exam (which starts in 44 minutes), let me refresh your memory.

A zachyot (zah-CHOTE) is an oral exam that is the most common type of assessment in your typical Russian university. Because Russian students may study as many as 25 or 30 subjects in a given semester, it’s unrealistic to take an exam in each. Instead, the professor prepares one question for each student and writes each on a card. The students wait, usually in the hall, while the professor calls them in one by one to draw a card at random and tell the teacher what they know about the given subject. Because it’s 1979, your points are then recorded in a physical booklet called a zachyotka, which is the only record of your grade. Do. Not. Lose. Your. Zachyotka.


Interlude: I’m sitting in the lobby of the pedagogical institute (where I study), with my back to some bulletin boards that have information about the cost of studies in various programs and flyers for different special events. Apparently the guy who was supposed to hang the boards did so poorly, and his boss just took him down here to fuss at him. The guy doesn’t agree that they’re crooked (neither do I, in his defense), so bossman just hopped up on my bench (WAY inside my bubble) with his alligator hide shoes without so much as an if-I-may-please-and-thank-you to show just how shoddily the board was hung. 

On Thursday we learned that we would have a final exam in speaking class, and that it would be today. Sadly, this left very little time to engage in the Russian ritual of holding your zachyotka out the window and shaking it  while saying “Get caught, freebie, big or small!” Apparently if you do this properly, you will get a zachyot that you know the answer to without studying.


The stockiest stock photo that ever did stock.

So this morning, Profprof came in, asked us if we’d brought our textbooks (Oh, you mean the ones we used for three weeks in October and haven’t touched since? Nope.), passed out copies of those of us who hadn’t, and then asked for two volunteers to be the first exam-takers. A lot of people volunteered, but Szilvia went first. A minute later, my tablemate, So-Jeun (sp?) , and I hopped up and slipped out of the room to wait by the door, intending to take the test together (as the professor had recommended). Because we’re sneaky like that.

When Szilvia stepped out, I took her place (the professor had apparently changed her mind about the whole two-at-a-time thing, so I had to leave So-Jeun out in the cold). The zachyot wasn’t bad and was all taken directly from the textbook:

TASK ONE. Imagine that you’ve just come back from the theater with your friend. You both enjoyed the play. Reply to each of the following statements, using synonymous expressions.

The play was just fantastic.”

The actors were so talented.”

The set was very creative.” and so on.

TASK TWO. Participate as instructed in the following dialogue.You work at a company that,at your suggestion, has organized a cruise for employees and clients. Reply as instructed to the following information from your boss.

We’ve decided to organize a cruise as you suggested.” Express gratefulness.

Your place has been reserved in first class.” Express disappointment.

“You will need to pay the cost of the ticket yourself [Oh, NOW I see why I was disappointed back then!] We can change your ticket to second class.” Express approval.

The third and final section consisted of the professor asking me some random questions about the use of computers, which went fine except for this one part where for some reason I insisted on talking about quantum computers, a topic about which I am not well-equipped to speak even in English.

My teacher clearly doesn’t care about quantum computing and moved the conversation along rather quickly, which was probably for the best.When it was over, she promised “high points” and sent me back into the classroom.

Hardly had butt met bench when a flock of classmates engulfed me. “What did she ask you?” “Are the questions from the book?” These guys were bold. They cut to the chase. None of this “Is it hard?” BS. I only felt a little guilty telling them I wasn’t going to share the test questions – these are Europeans, after all, so I know they know better. “You’re so American! You won’t tell us anything!” exclaimed Alice. It was perhaps the first time I’ve heard Americans stereotyped as keeping quiet.

Those of us who had already taken the test or who didn’t care about it spent the next hour planning a farewell party for Sunday (wait, is it really the last weekend of the semester already?) and talking about our hometowns (one classmate’s town was recently voted the worst city in Britain), after which I went to Study Hard, which is definitely not a euphemism for Eat Sushi–although if you like avocados and don’t like fish, that can be done for 80 cents per serving on basically every corner.

The results of the study are in. It turns out that no, I was not going to study for my Tatar exam. Results will be posted on Wednesday. Qarıybız—we’ll see.