The first part of a chest-clearing exercise in which I recount my woeful experience of trying to attain the RHS3 Advanced qualification.

Assuming I don’t have to re-sit it, I’ve just finished the last exam of my RHS 3 course.

It has been a 2 year process made horrendous, almost entirely, because of my rubbish college. It started promisingly enough, with a full class, many known to each other from RHS2 where we had been taught by Jeff, the same tutor as we had for the new course.

However it soon became apparent to me that the level tutelage wasn’t much above what we’d experienced in RHS2 and a proper look at the syllabus convinced me that if I was going to get through I’d need to do so under my own steam. I didn’t mention this to anyone else in the class, but about 2 months after the course started I began attending only intermittently, and commenced work on writing my own notes. This was a lot of work, but having done A-level Biology, and since the module was Taxonomy, Physiology and Plant Health, I pretty much knew where I was going with it. As I mentioned in a blog post at the time I ended up buying most of the text books I had used for my sixth-form studies.

Anyway the exam came round in the following July. The paper was a bit of a stinker, and I was no-where near where I wanted to be with my revision owing to a family disaster a few weeks previously.

The day after the exam we got a letter from the college telling us that the tutor had resigned. Strangely, he`d not mentioned anything in our last lesson a few days earlier.

So the summer drifted by, during which I discovered that the RHS had a qualifications portal, through which one could view everything to do with exams past and pending. I contacted the RHS and got myself set up, although this was something college should have organised for us. When classmates I`d told about it tried to do the same, they were refused on those grounds. So just before term started, and long before notification came though the post, I found that I`d passed with a respectable 67%. I was a happy, but a little disappointed, as I had wanted to get past the 70% barrier that merited a commendation. But then things had been against me.

Meanwhile I waited for notification that college had a new tutor for us. And waited. And waited. A month into the start of term we were told a new tutor had been found and on week five we all pitched up. Gloria, the new tutor clearly knew her stuff, and was friendly and enthusiastic. The same could not be said of the class. I had the highest pass mark (which seemed to annoy some people, perhaps because I’d scarcely come to class and they hadn’t noticed the cause and effect behind that), there was a 63% from a former scientist and the rest a mix of low 50% scrape-throughs and non-passers. After a barrage of complaints over year one and the delay in the start of year two, our new tutor went round the class asking what she could do for us. For my part I said simply I wanted help so that I could pass with a commendation, but for most of the rest it was another invitation to moan and Gloria stood it well. Nevertheless at the end of our two hour session, a lot of chests had been cleared and there seemed, to me at least, to be a positive air breaking over the class. I went home myself feeling fairly at ease. The new tutor did appear to know her stuff, was more dynamic and up to date than Jeff  and – having been bitten the previous term, when I’d had to spend ages writing my own notes – I’d dedicated a lot of time since the July exam working on notes for Module A (Plant Propagation & Soils), and was well ahead of where we should be, even if we’d been having lessons.

Should be easier from here I thought.