The Flexibility of Exams

Italian universities give you a great amount of flexibility and power over your exams, but as Uncle Ben once said “With great power comes great responsibility”.

There are multiple exam sessions throughout the year, generally in winter, and again during summer. Classically the exams are in February, June and July, each subject having two opportunities throughout the month.

Here is an example exam timetable from the university of Sapienza.

You have the complete freedom to pick and choose when you want to sit exams, and which exams you want to sit. If you don’t want to sit all your exams that year that’s fine as well. To pass into 2nd year, you only need to pass 2 full exams from 1st year. To pass into 3rd year you need to pass all of your 1st year exams, and only 2 from 2nd year, and so on. I’m sure you get the point.

In most countries failing an exam usually means having to wait for a specific point in the year to have another trial. I know that in Ireland “repeats” for students who have failed are held at the end of the summer, and you usually have to pay a very hefty fee. In other countries failing the same exam twice (not passing at repeats) means that you have to repeat the entire year, and in more extreme countries it means you get kicked out of medical school with no possibility of ever applying again. Thankfully Italy is a little bit more relaxed when it comes to re-sitting exams.

Since there are multiple exam sessions throughout the year you have multiple choices to fail at. And well if you fail there’s practically no consequences! You can sit the same exam as many times as you want throughout any point in your medical school degree. Failing an exam is really not that big of a problem which really helps alleviate some of the exam stress and nerves you might be feeling. Here’s where it gets weird though, you can resit an exam if you don’t like your grade. If you had your heart set on getting that perfect 30 lode, and instead got a 29 you can reject your grade! The professor doesn’t record your grade and it’s as if you never sat that exam, giving you multiple chances of that sweet sweet 30.

This system is great and awful at the same time. While very forgiving and allowing a great amount of flexibility to plan your schedule around for flights, holidays, etc it also kind of takes away from the seriousness of exams. It’s very easy to adopt an attitude of “Well I don’t need to study now I can always just sit it next session”. Being perfectly honest I fell into this pit in my first year, and struggled the entire summer trying to catch up with my exams; the amount of responsibility Italian universities put on you is both refreshing and terrifying.

Don’t do what I did kids. Sit all your exams on time.