Finals start next week at Liège 1: two weeks of oral exams causing all my Belgian classmates to STRESS!
I'm not really sure why, though... sure, tests might be graded more harshly here, and having a one-on-one exam with the professors is more intimidating than having a written test, but grades here don't seem to matter nearly as much as in the States.
While, back home, the goal is always 100%, an A+, the best grade possible in order to get into the best college possible, here the goal is to pass. At 50%. Since, as far as I can tell, anyone with a high school diploma and ±800€ a year can go do university (catch the note of jealousy in my voice? As someone who spent hours on applications and will graduate with her fair share of loans, I think it's justified) and since no Belgian university is inherently or outstandingly better than the others, there is no need for anything more.
Obviously I'm not saying that Belgians don't want good grades, or that their parents don't want them to get good grades, or that people here aren't going to study more than I probably ever did for my finals. But the mindset going into the exams is entirely different.
Today, when we received out bulletins for the 3rd period, everyone spent the hour of "ask questions and review for the exam" time in French to count up their "points d'avance" (extra points) to see what grade they needed to make at the exam to pass the year.
I'll use my grades in English as an example, since they're my best ones (cheating, I realize):
1st period: 16/20 = 6 points d'avance
Exam Noël: 27/30 = 12 points d'avance
2nd period: 19/20 = 9 points d'avance
3rd period: 19/20 = 9 points d'avance
Exam June: 36 points d'avance
To succeed, I need half the 60 points possible at the exam, which I already have, and then some. This means I could literally walk in, say "Bonjour, au revoir" and pass English for the year. (I'm not going to do this, in case you were wondering.) I don't think that any Belgians have this many points d'avance, but there are some in my class who only need 5 - 10 points on their exams. Since passing by a large margin doesn't make a huge difference, they can take it easy on the studying.
Not that I'm jealous, having already done what I need to graduate high school and be accepted to college, I can take it easier than any of them. So there! haha