Friday. Exam Day.
Much of Friday was wasted. My exam wasn’t until 2:30 and we had been given terribly strict instructions that anyone arriving late to the exam would suffer the penalty of death. Okay, not quite, but the regulations surrounding these exams reminded me of my teaching days when I would have to proctor the state standardised test. Each of us was given an anonymous code to ensure unbiased marking and we had to arrive to the examination room ten minutes early. The room would close five minutes before and if you were late you would be held up in the corridor until five minutes after the exam began. All bags, coats, and phones were to be placed in the front of the examination room and phones turned off. Any bag with a phone in it that began to ring during the exam would be placed in the corridor and the university not held responsible when…er, if it was stolen. You were allowed a calculator, a clear pencil case, a clear water bottle, and a snack that could be eaten silently (no crisps, apples, etc.). Once the exam began you could not leave the room for thirty minutes. If you finished at least fifteen minutes before the end of the allotted time you could raise your hand and be excused. Past that mark and you were stuck in that room until the bitter end. The exam room was in a building I had never stepped foot in previously and I couldn’t help but feel a bit intimidated by the whole process.
Friday morning I putzed about the flat. I made myself a late breakfast of a pepper, mushroom, and cheese omelette and some vegetarian sausage. I had a good appetite, none of that anxious starvation I used to experience when it came to testing. To be honest, I felt confident. I had called up past examination papers from the university’s website and taken one and a half for practice. I reasoned that whatever I didn’t remember at this point could not be recalled in the few hours before the examination and rather than torture myself over it, I would enjoy my breakfast and cup of Earl Grey.
Back in my room I watched a movie and generally sat around waiting for 1:45 to roll around so I could take the bus into town. In my boredom I called up another past exam and went through it. If I didn’t remember something, I just looked it up and wrote down the answer. I was calm. There was no panic today. How odd!
Soon I was meeting Sophie at the bus stop and we were climbing aboard the PR2 heading to our fate. We got off at the second stop and hurried through the rain towards Elvet Riverside where our exam was being held. Once we stepped inside I was ever so glad I had not had the pleasure of having classes in this building. It was a dingy, mid-twentieth century construction. The carpets were stained, the staircases well worn, and the furniture in the corridor soiled. The dark yellow walls (dark simply because of grime) did nothing to cheer. It was a depressing environment and hardly worthy of a top 100 university. This was where I would be taking my exam.
The corridor began to fill and soon students were standing practically on top of one another. The cacophony of nervous chatter filled the space and I began to feel as though my head would explode. I was bored. I just wanted to do something. I just wanted to take the damn test. Waiting in this hall filled with people who were anxiously joking, hurriedly review flashcards, or staring off into space was beginning to test my patience.
Finally an older gentleman poked his head out of our exam room. We would be taking our exam with another module. They were called in first and then we were seated. I dutifully placed all of my things against the wall and brought only three pencils, an eraser, a clear ruler, and my calculator to my seat. There were two blank examination booklets and a folded psychometric chart with the exam tucked inside. We also had a blue identification card.
Then came the routine I knew so well. Read the script with all of the instructions. Have the students fill out the information on the ID card and the examination booklet. Wait for the clock to strike…….and GO!
I opened the exam and saw that the questions were the same ones from the practice exams I had taken the day before and that morning. I chuckled and smiled. This was going to be a piece of piss. I tore through each question, only getting stumped once but writing my way around the answer as best I could. When I got to the relative humidity questions I nearly laughed out loud. I had done these this morning on the practice exam. I could almost remember the answers without doing the calculations. I finished the last few thoughts and looked at the clock. I had ten minutes before the room would be closed. I raised my hand, my booklet and materials were collected, I grabbed my things, and rushed out.
The door closed silently behind me and I was DONE.
I began to pack my pencils and calculator and put my jacket on when Sophie emerged from the examination room. We smiled at each other.
“That was…” she began.
“Easy?” I finished.
“Yeah, really easy.”
We both laughed as we exited the building back into the rainy May afternoon.