In all honesty, I am not a great fan of education. Having spent more than eighty percent of my life so far in school with nothing tangible to show for it explains why. Worse still is the fact that examinations are the main modality used to assess whether learning has transpired or not. While this is not a bad idea, I think it is quite unfortunate that they test for memory and rarely ever check for thinking or understanding. That said, it should follow that I am not a great fan of exams either. The truth is, I am… not, but whatever happens during examinations sure does give me the kicks. It all rolls down to this.
The preparation phase:
Most students prefer to wait till the very last minute when they can jam everything into their short term memory. The books that had been dumped on the shelves and covered with mounds of web and dust are re-opened at last. It is no surprise that so many of us get colds during this time. Social life also changes drastically. The usual gossip and bumming cliques stop and discussion groups become vogue. There are hardly any warm exchanges. You regard those around you either as ‘wasters’ or potential sources of much needed help.
Once in the exam room, it is all panic galore. One may have a blank mind, that weird song that just won’t stop playing in their head or, if they are lucky, a mind that is processing all the data that they are about to regurgitate. After all, it is almost always a Garbage In Garbage Out affair. I normally have a weird song playing in my head. Sometimes I try to go on a music dry spell prior to discourage this from happening but, seemingly, my mind knows better. Anyway once the exam papers are dished out: it is time for the next phase.
The question number one phase:
Whoever has sat an exam can bear witness- the first question is usualy almost seemingly impossible to handle. I am yet to find an explanation for this, but for now I will postulate several working theories. The first one is the ‘examiner is showing off’ theory. I suppose examiners have a wry sense of humor. Perhaps they derive satisfaction from seeing that ‘golden’ expression that those being examined bear when they first flip their papers. That should explain my ‘Up yours!’ mentality after answering this elusive question. The second one is the ‘mental block’ theory. Having being panic stricken for all your adrenal gland’s worth of adrenaline, even the simplest of tasks will seemingly appear insurmountable. Apparently, you end up cock-blocking yourself. Go google that. The last theory is the ‘question one is just a hard nut to crack’ theory. I believe it speaks for itself.
The self realization phase:
After tackling or skipping several questions a third-way or so into the exam, one slowly starts to appreciate and accept their current predicament. It sinks in that there is no turning back. That is when you commit yourself to regurgitating expected answers on the answer sheet, rarely pausing to think about what you are writing. GIGO is at work here. Some in this phase, prefer to sit and reason out with the examiner. Unfortunately, grammar does not always suffice for a meaningful negotiation for marks. That is why I wish that phrases like ‘You see…’, ‘What I’m trying to say is…’ or ‘Check this out…’ could be used in formal writing because they can make any gibberish sound convincing. From here onwards, things should roll smoothly unless one finds themselves in this next phase.
The Provocative Phase:
This is when everything goes haywire. Its duration is directly proportional to (among other minor factors) your psychological state and who you are sitting next to in the examination room, in that particular order. If you woke up with an empire state of mind, had your facts right and your mojo tagging close by, you are unlikely to experience this. However when self doubt kicks in, things start going south. The latter can be exacerbated when one sits next to a panicky lot, fellows who ask for extra sheets of paper or people who just won’t help a brother in need. This phase, if anything, may provoke you to walk out of the exam room either hands up in protest or just plain upbeat.
Summarily, examinations just reemphasize how education is a relentless uphill task. If it were up to me, tests should also be based on creativity and not just protocol and memory. While those gifted with memory will keep scaling the heights of education, it is my belief that creative minds continue to inherit the world. In the end: examinations group people into- those who deserve to pass; those who will pass by any means; and the lot who will always awe the examiner with just how much ‘crass’ a (normal) human mind can generate in [insert hypothetical exam duration here]. And now if you’ll excuse me, I have a paper to go study for.