While studying for exams has not been the most enjoyable or relaxing part of my life these last few months, I have to say that after experiencing my first day of exams, I am GLAD to be in a program that requires me to take exams. Yes, part of why I am glad is because revising for exams has provided an incredible opportunity to learn and to consolidate what I know. But, more importantly (in terms of this blog), exams is just a pretty unbelievably absurd experience.
For starters, you have to wear your sub fusc (white shirt, black skirt/pants, black tights, black shoes, ribbon tie, and gown); your carnation is optional, though highly recommended: day one is white, two (if you have three exams) is pink, and the last day is red (it serves as a sign to the world that you are finished and you don't care who knows it). If you are anything like me, you try to not arrive to early because you know that you are going to be held like cattle (ironic given the black and white motif) in a tent outside the exam schools until your room is announced. Also, if you are anything like me, you will realize ten steps from the door that you didn't bring the required piece of paper that has your candidate number. You will have a few flustered moments where you wonder if you are going to be allowed to take your exam (after all, students have been sent home for not having black tights on with their pants) so after asking "What should I do?!" (breathlessly), you will run to the window in the front and exclaim, "I don't know my candidate number?!" The woman behind the desk with gently (because she is not sure if you are one of "the ones" who is on the brink of a panic attack) tell you that it will be ok and that you will just have to fill out a slip of paper in room.
You are so relieved that after you find the hall with hundreds of desks filled with test-takers, you will high-five all of the people from your course (who are all sitting alphabetically in your row--and in case you are wondering, this is NOT standard behavior). Once everyone gets settled into their desks, the instructor explains the rules; mostly that you aren't allowed to move without permission. If you need more paper, raise your hand; if you need a drink, make a cupping motion; and if you need to use the toilet, gesture wildly at the door. (But make sure you decide to go BEFORE the last 30 minutes, at which point you will be locked in...I don't know why.)
Then you are told to begin. Three hours, three questions, and one 37-minute warning later, time is up. You are shushed out of the building, and after a euphoric few hours, you realize you get to do it all again tomorrow. And tomorrow's test will likely be harder. But the good news is that you will get to see your supervisor in a gown and plush-velvet hood. The bad news is that you still can't take a camera in with you to capture the moment.