At the start of every term most Oxford students will sit collections. These are basically mock exams, marked by your tutors, and allow you to get a feel of exam technique, as well as some idea of how well you understand the course so far. Each college does collections in a different way but the main advice I was given from second years was to not worry too much about them.
Mock exams can be useful, but collections aren’t something to panic about. I found this hard to believe when I was frantically revising at the start of this term, knowing I probably hadn’t worked as hard as I could have done over Christmas. I was definitely worried about failing in the days leading up to the collections, as were most of my friends. Eventually the day came to sit them, and I survived, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be and it felt like all of my friends on my course were in the same position.
I haven’t had all my collection marks back yet, but it would be fair to say I could’ve done better in the ones I have had back. Regardless of this, I haven’t been threatened with leaving college or been asked to speak to my tutors etc. From what I’ve heard of my college friends’ experiences, the worst thing that can happen is you’re offered more help with topics you struggled on. The collection experience really did seem to be more for me to get an idea of what the summer exams would be like and were a useful guide of how to get better prepared.
This post isn’t to say that collections are pointless or that you shouldn’t prepare for them. In my experience they’re worth giving your best shot, but not something to stress about if they don't go as well as you hope. Collections are a good way to test yourself on your knowledge of the course so far and get some valuable exam tips from your tutors. I’ll try to remind myself of this at the start of next term!