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IGCSE Sanskrit experiences
Posted on: 8/7/2022

Many of the adult candidates in the UK, who appeared for the Cambridge Sanskrit IGCSE, sat the examination in London at the St James Senior Boys’ School, Stanwell, TW15 3DZ.

The exam was timed earlier than usual this year, at the end of April, the two papers scheduled just two days apart.

Several other Cambridge Centres, around London and at other venues around the UK, also hosted candidates. Of course there were also school-age candidates from both St James Senior Girls’ and Senior Boys’ Schools, as well as Avanti House School Stanmore, a school in Nottingham and one in Jersey.

We thought you might like to read about some of the contrasting experiences of the adults, many of whom enter for the exams not only for their own benefit but also to support the continuation of the public examination. It’s certainly a novel way to make friends!

  • Overcoming nerves and feeling gratitude

‘On arriving at the Senior Boys School, I was comforted to meet old friends and to see the range of people, young and old, who were taking the Sanskrit IGCSE. It was beautifully organised, but nothing seemed to quell the rising nerves and feelings of being a rabbit caught in car headlights.

I was conscious of making stupid mistakes in the first language paper, but by the time we returned to sit Paper Two on Literature, I was well and truly in my stride and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It felt as though the rest of the room had disappeared and I literally only just finished a last minute amendment when we were asked to stop.

Obviously, there is a desire to do well, but mostly there is gratitude to have been held to account for the months of challenging and yet thrilling study.’  Gina

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  • A very positive experience

‘Sitting the Sanskrit Language and Literature IGCSE exams at St. James’ School in Ashford this April proved a very positive experience.
The whole event was very well organised and run. An added bonus was meeting a couple of my online classmates in the flesh for the first time as well as my teacher David Stollar and the wonderful Helen Harper. I look forward to sitting it again in 2023 after I complete the Sanskrit@StJames online Two-year course. Patrick (Note from the editor – Patrick hasn’t studied Sanskrit for very long, so taking the exam this year was mainly to support it, and also to find out a little more about the whole experience. He travelled from Ireland to join us at St James.) 

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  • This was the most calm I have ever felt in taking an exam

‘Studying Sanskrit has been, and continues to be, a joy. The deeply peaceful vibrations of the words as you speak them and the discovery of this beautifully created language is a gift to the mind, body and soul. The technical side of Sanskrit is a mentally stimulating adventure; the study of the sacred texts, unfolding like the lotus flower as you progress in your understanding.

This was the most calm I have ever felt in taking an exam and it was wonderful to meet all the people I had been studying with, virtually, in the flesh.  Sanskrit is a celebration of all the faculties we have been given as humans, engaging all parts of our being. I cannot recommend it enough.’ Anna

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  • How to overcome anxiety using the wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita

‘I’m sure we’ve all had a moment of memory loss once in the exam room on some level, which can cause a feeling of anxiety, but reminding yourself that all you can do is your best in that present moment with the knowledge you have and the questions presented, is in my experience a nice way to settle into the exam. It’s all about the attitude! The monologue I gave my mind was “this is fun”. With this attitude I experienced increased mental alertness in the context of physiological relaxation. Acting without regard or desire for the fruits of action.

“Let your prerogative be in action alone and never with the results thereof. Do not let your motive be the result of action, and do not be attached to inaction.” Bhagavad Gita 2.47.’ Rina

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  • It was truly an unforgettable experience

‘My name is Dalma. I am a student from Budapest, Hungary. I’ve always been fascinated by the wonderful culture of India, and had a specific interest and love for the Sanskrit language since my childhood. This is why I decided to take Sanskrit as one of my IGCSE subjects. Preparing for the exam was a delightful experience.

The syllabus is really well put together, containing both grammar and the philosophy, explained in an understandable and exciting way. It was certainly reassuring for me, as I was coming to take the exam from a different country, to have the warm support and guidance of teachers such as Mrs Harper all along, over the years. Due to the pandemic my exam got postponed, however that didn’t change the fact that I could always count on the teachers of St James school with whatever help I needed, even without having met before in person. I am grateful for everyone that had helped me in the exam process, it was truly an unforgettable experience.’ Dalma (Dalma travelled from Budapest to join us at St James)

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