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We all know that feeling, when you’re stood in front of an exam room waiting to go in, silently hoping that what you’ve done is enough, that the questions will be nice and that your lecturer hasn’t thrown in a random curve ball. Different people deal with that pressure in several different ways, and you experience them all right before zero hour of an exam.
In that small, cramped space you always have the talker. The one who is determined to tell you all how much revision they have achieved, and reel off absolutely everything they know in the hope that you will absolve them, tell them they’ll get the grade they desire and be absolutely fine. It’s a coping mechanism of sorts, the only problem with that is that it can make you wonder why you didn’t know what Henry V ate for breakfast on the morning of the Battle of Agincourt, and whether this will be important for that crucial question. Equally nerve-wracking, and possibly more unsettling is the person who is dead silent and whey-faced, you can’t decide whether they’re going to fall over in a faint, or whether they’re about ready to kill someone. Either way most people outside of the exam hall seem to be giving them a wide berth as they stare into the middle distance; hopefully they’ll perk up a little bit once they’re in there.
Once inside the exam hall there’s a dead hush as you wait for the clock to tick to the hour, and check for the nine-zillionth time that you do not have your mobile phone in your pockets. Then the exam begins and there’s a flapping of paper. Instantly people divide into groups; you have the hare, who races off writing without formulating any sort of plan and they’ve covered two sides in fifteen minutes, but then run out of things to talk about and spend the next ten minutes staring into space trying to figure where to go next. Along from them is the tortoise, who you notice seems to be taking an excruciatingly long time to start writing, but hey who knows, once they get going maybe every word they write is pure gold. Aside from the way people actually write, the other things you notice in the exam hall are the daydreamers, who never seem to actually put pen to paper; the obsessive bathrooms users, who you would swear have been out at least three times in the last twenty minutes; and then there’s always that guy, the one who gets up with an hour to go and leaves. Maybe this guy is a superhero, whose ability is to be able to write 50 words a minute and somehow stretch his brain so he has the capacity to think of the next paragraph whilst writing the one he formulated before. However it’s done, there is always a tinge of disbelief, respect and jealousy when they leave that early.
Aside from whether exams can bring out the best or worst in people, and you get to see traits that the people in your seminar might not necessarily want to show, in reality all that matters is you. You know what keeps you happy right before an exam, so if you’re a chatter go find the other chatty people, if you like to rock backwards and forwards in the corner then that’s equally okay – whatever keeps you happy.