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Confessions of an Invigilator

14/06/16

With this years exam period almost over, our blogger Emma has shared with us some of her experiences as an invigilator and the types of things you can expect on the job.

The GCSE season is upon us. Hoards of teenagers with haunted expressions enter sports halls across the country in the climax of their education so far. I don't normally work with older 'children', some of whom have beards and tower over me. But on occasion I take up work as an exam invigilator for Protocol Education.

Depending on the school I could be one of seven with only six pupils in a room or one of six with two hundred pupils in a sports hall. The exam lasts the same time and the rules are the same. Most of an invigilator's job, after giving out the papers, involves making sure there isn't any cheating and handing out the odd ruler. Not to mention how many times you need to escort a teenager to the toilet. It seems they are similar to primary aged children. One puts their hand up to use the toilet and the collective bladder begins to burst.

Invigilation involves a lot of standing and waiting. Whilst waiting on a physics exam to start, the conversation turned to our own experiences of the dreaded GCSEs. It feels like only a few years ago for me, I still remember the dread and anticipation, followed by the relief when they were over. For my fellow invigilators, it was only a few years ago. Which makes me feel old as mine ended 19 years ago! But as I stood watching the pupils launch into their exams, with their knees jangling I could still empathise with that feeling.

For a two hour exam, where anything other than an essential whisper to a colleague, so quiet only dogs could hear, is forbidden it helps to pass the time by letting your mind wander. Maybe I've watched too many children's cartoons with my toddler, but that large built, pink faced invigilator with the bristly chin and glasses bared more than a passing resemblance to Daddy Pig. Posters on suffixes and prefixes suddenly become incredibly interesting when the first hour had passed without a single student needing a ruler. And graffiti'd desks can be very entertaining. One student wrote "I hate exams, also I need a poo". I had to try very, very hard to hold in a surprised chuckle at that one, acoustic wise sports halls aren't great places for noise.

There are different types of invigilators; the type who paces up and down vigilant to any slight movement. The type who likes to congregate with the others on one side, even though talking is forbidden. It is nice to have company after all. The type who stands alone and the organised type, with a little box full of everything a student could ask for. I wish I were the organised type, that would indeed save me time travelling from one end of the hall to another to fetch a calculator.

And just like there are different types of invigilator there also different types of pupil. Some are clearly nervous, their legs shaking the whole time, a look of sheer panic in their eyes. Others are so calm they lay their heads down and fall asleep once they've finished. Some finish 30 minutes into a two hour exam and others scribble frantically until the end. But whatever type they may be, I bet they'll all be relieved when it's finally over. Just like I was 19 years ago.


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