Rajesh Kumar

Optimizing life, one day after the next

The Post-Exam Session

02 Sep 2009

With perhaps only a very few exceptions, the best time during any exam period, at least to me, would be the post-exam session. Those 15 minutes after everyone exits the exam hall is really quite a time I cherish and enjoy being in the middle of. People talking excitedly, some looking dejected, some looking relieved they actually managed to pass, and others just plain exhausted from all the mental exertion. It was a period of intense communication and knowledge sharing.

Why people would want to discuss the exam after the exam is still beyond me. The exam is over. You couldn't do much to change the outcome now could you?

In March of 2001, we had this particular nasty and exhausting math exam. It was an examination administered by the gulf boards and these exams were supposed to be hard, by design. I was in Grade 9 at the time, and even after several years of experience, I still hadn't quite adjusted myself to the idea of being tested on an entire year's worth of curriculum in just one exam sitting. The exam was an exhausting 3-hour long exam for exactly a 100 marks. Actually they'd design the exam to be 4 hours long, but only give you 3 hours to see how you performed under time pressure. I hated it.

At 2 hours 30 minutes, people would start to leave. The people who had obviously failed the exam or were pretty close to failing didn't give the exam much thought. They'd just be glad to be able to leave the stuffy exam room and go play soccer. But the others, the others that were serious about their grades would wait outside the door. And as each person would exit, the same question would be asked over and over again.

"Did you get 7b)?"

It was the same question they'd ask every person that exited the exam hall. And in almost all cases the student exiting the exam room would shake his head in despair. "No way! I have no clue how to approach 7b). It's impossible." Of course it's impossible. It's trigonometry. And then he'd go join the crowd of people so he too could now ask the very same question to the next person who'd come out of the exam hall after him.

And so this process would continue. These kids would actually wait for half-an-hour just so they could find even one person that could solve 7b). Maybe they're motivation was that if no one could solve 7b), then it wasn't their fault. Maybe there was a mistake in the problem after all.

But eventually, there'd be that one guy, the one student that everyone would soon come to hate. He'd be one of the last students to exit the room. You know, one of those kids who'd be feverishly writing his solutions down on his answer sheet up until the very point the proctor called out "pens down!"

But when he'd pick up his backpack and leave the classroom, the whole crowd of 15 or so students who had been waiting outside the exam hall, in the hot un-airconditoned Dubai heat, for over half-an-hour, would all groan together in unison.

And ever so calmly, that one guy, one hand in his pocket, a wonderful smile plastered all over his little delighted face, would stick his other hand back to make sure the door closed gently behind him. The groaning would get a tad louder as soon as the exam hall's door had been shut.

He'd then proceed to brush his hair off his forehead, wipe off some sweat trickling down his cheeks, and then adjust his nerdy glasses so they sat correctly on the bridge of his nose. All with a cool air of calm surrounding him as his classmates watched with deep chagrin and remorse.

The pretense was unmistakable.

Mr. Smart Guy had indeed solved 7b).

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