The Awkward Guide

In every situation in life, there's always a way to make a tit of yourself

The Awkward Guide To Exams

It doesn’t take a genius  to work out all of the usual reasons why exams aren’t most people’s idea of a fun-filled afternoon – it’s not rocket science (unless of course you’re studying astrophysics, in which case that’s probably exactly what it is).

You will no doubt have discovered, however, that there is some additional and rather unexpected unpleasantness that comes hand-in-hand with being examined.

So just in case, you know, you run out of all the usual reasons to dislike rigorous academic testing, here are four more things to worry about.

1. You find out all of the quite extraordinary but completely unhelpful things you have somehow managed to remember.

You may be staring at a question knowing full well exactly what page of your notes the useful information was written on. You can remember exactly what that page of notes looked like – even down to the colour-coded gel pen sections.

You can remember which motivational film soundtrack you were listening to when you wrote them (Mulan, naturally).

You can even remember that the postman interrupted you half-way through writing those notes to deliver a parcel that was actually for next-door but you let him leave it with you because it’s always exciting to get post, even other people’s.

In fact, the only thing that you can’t remember is what the notes actually said. And unfortunately for you, that’s the only thing that would be of any use whatsoever.

2. Unusual blood-flow issues.

This one only really applies to the longer exams, anything around the 3 hour mark or longer, which are frankly superhuman feats of stamina and concentration in themselves.

There comes a point about 2 and a quarter hours in when you realise that all the blood which was formerly circulating the grey matter in your brain has now pooled rather concerningly in your bottom.

And honestly your bottom can be as magnificent as it likes, I’m pretty sure it can’t write an essay on the rise and fall of the Roman Empire or solve a quadratic equation (although if yours can I would very much like to make your acquaintance).

The unpleasantness stemming from this particular problem is two-fold.

First you realise that blood in your brain is actually quite important for helping you to do things like think and maintain fine motor controls. Without which your exam performance tends to take something of a nosedive.

And second, what little concentration you manage to hang onto in this state will be periodically interrupted by mounting fears of developing a deep vein thrombosis.

And if you’re going to develop a fatal blood clot then really you’d want it to happen on a long-haul flight, preferably on the way home from some exciting destination like Miami or French Polynesia, rather than sitting in a gym hall that smells of sports equipment and stressed adolescents.

3. Invigilators.

I’m fairly sure the only criteria by which exam invigilators are selected are being optimally distracting and generally having the quality of ‘worst person to have around when trying to sit an exam’.

If they’re not noisily eating boiled sweets, repeatedly blowing their noses, or pacing around the room with their squeaky shoes – then they’re hovering menacingly behind you for an inappropriate length of time or failing to grasp the concept of ‘hushed tones’ when they strike up conversations with each other.

4. Other people.

Not just any people though, most people are quietly getting on with staring at the clock or trying desperately to say something intelligent about semi-permeable membranes.

But there is a small minority who spoil it for the rest of us. I know, it’s not as if without them an exam would be several hours of unmitigated joy, but all things are relative.

What makes it worse is that you are almost guaranteed to have accidentally chosen the seat next to them.

You know who they are.

The sneezers. The people who ask for extra paper after only twenty minutes. The people who cough loudly.

The people who attempt to cough quietly and end up sounding like a small horse. The people who drink water from a really noisy bottle. The people who write like they’re trying to gauge their way through the desk.

The people who write too quickly and leave you with shocking inferiority complexes. The people who have 5 million and 7 pens laid out on the desk in case one runs out. The people who walk out after only 25 minutes and leave you unable to concentrate for wondering whether they’re a bona fide genius who has already finished, or have just had a small nervous breakdown, drawn a picture of a cat on each page, and left.

Ok, so maybe not a small minority then.

To be honest, with all of that going on it’s amazing we walk out of there with any marks at all.


The Awkward Guide accepts no responsibility for adverse reactions to the implementation of advice supplied herein. Side-effects can include: smug laughter, mild disdain, and temporary irritation.


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