Questions that always come to the minds of new international students are: How will I be graded? What assignments do I have to do to pass the course? Are there any exams? This article will aim to answer those questions and give you a better understanding of Finnish school system.
Coming from a different continent, you might find that the evaluation at universites in Finland is very different from your previous learning experience. While some students can adapt to new situations very well, some need more guidance during the process. No matter what type of students you are, there is surely some information you will find useful.
Depending on what you are studying, your courses are structured in various ways. Next, we will list the four most common assignments and ways of evaluation you might encounter when you study in Finland.
Fewer and fewer courses in Finnish universities are using exams as an assessment. The exams often use essay questions and cover the topics you have learnt during the course. Some teachers might tell you in advance what type of test questions there will be.
There’s also the option to take a book exam. You don’t need to attend the lectures, but instead, you will be given material you need to go through on your own. Taking a book exam allows you to personalize your schedule and study at a faster pace.
Essays are common assignments in many countries. Essay is an academic piece of writing that shows your ability to gather information, critique, and organize your thoughts. You are expected to read further about your topic and use references to support your ideas.
Usually you can choose the topic freely as long as its relates to the content of the course. Your teacher will give you certain guidelines for the number of words and the structure of the essay. However, from my experience, teachers seldom give you instructions for font, margins, and spacing. Don’t panic! You can always ask for more information or just use the most conventional style for academic writing in your field, eg. APA.
Your university might have some study tools to help you write an essay. For example, Kajaani University of Applied Sciences has gathered guidelines to help you with your writing.
This is perhaps the most special type of assignment. A learning diary is usually a long process of recording your learning during the course. There might be varieties: some teachers would ask you to submit weekly a weekly diary or a long report once at the end of the course. But usually you are suggested to write one page after each class.
So what exactly should you write in a learning diary? Many of my friends get stressed because of this new concept and the instructions are usually not so clear. I like to think of a learning diary as a creative process. For different courses I have taken, I’ve written the learning diary differently. It is your personal reflection on the class content.
However, it is more academic than your typical reflection, for example, at elementary school. You can include some readings from the class, theories mentioned, and connect them yourself. It is not just a summary of what happened in the classroom. You can raise questions, contemplate, or even confess that you are not really sure what something means. So no worries, write as you wish and enjoy the process.
Presentations are no stranger to students in this era. At Finnish universities, some courses are even constructed mostly on students’ presentations with a discussion afterwards. It might be a group presentation or an individual one. If using English for presentation makes you insecure, you can have notes with you, but practice beforehand so you won’t be just reading the script. If you are using Powerpoint, make sure your content is clear and concise. TED talk speakers usually have great presentation skills. Here is an article about how to make better slides. For more creative presentations, you might even use videos or one of my personal favorites, Prezi.