A Quest on Overdrive … :)

An eccentric rambler on life's lessons and mercies, found and lost… :)

Testing Times


This blog was published here, after a long wait 🙂 I had sent it to The Hindu for its Open Page article, and it was finally published in print, and online, in the Kochi Edition, this day, 8 March, 2015 🙂 You can read it online here:


*does a jig* 🙂 March seems to be a good month 🙂 Last year, 1 March was when a letter to the Editor got published, in the same newspaper,[LINK] and now this! This article also has a cartoon with it, done by Surendra 🙂


Helen Keller referred to examinations as bugbears. She spoke of the utter disarray of her thoughts, humorously, in her autobiography, in a way that unfailingly appeals to students in my class when we come to that chapter. The collective empathy is tangible for she has spoken of a universal condition in these testing times.

In my twenty years of being part of the system that administers these tests, quite apart from the times I have had to take them at various points in life, there have been some interesting observations, while in an examination hall, and the “types” of learners who do attempt to make it through those tests.

There are the “toilers”, the ones for the long road, the inveterate readers, the pros in the hall, never faltering, rarely lost, chewing nails, or eyes darting nervously. They know where they’re headed. So do the others who look on enviously.

Then  “sweat’ers”, quite different from the toilers, though one might think these go together. These poor souls are usually discovered with sweaty hands, and brows, nervous tics, repeatedly rubbing their palms on their uniform, over their knees. More often than not, great works of art are inked in, in the process of completing the paper too!

One must not forget the “writers”- on a mission, it would seem, to persist, persevere and not stop writing, till the last bell has rung. These examinees are, most often, quite unaware of their surroundings, the consternation on fellow-examinees’ faces, deflecting daggers sent from evil looks their way, with ease. It is quite another thing, that any examiner who marks such papers finds little of value, pertaining to the questions asked!

The gazers, I and II form the bulk of the exam hall populace. On close observation, you find the first kind, suddenly stop writing, look hard at their papers, whip their heads about, fix their gaze on a particular point far away in space, zone out. With equal suddenness they get back to writing. The pattern is random, but fairly, disturbingly frequent. The second kind on the other hand are the dextrous sort. I wonder if they are classical dancers in disguise, sometimes! It beats me how they are able to achieve full surveillance of the hall, and their neighbour’s papers even while the examiner’s eyes are trained on them!

The fidgeters are next – the noisiest in class, without doubt. Randomly (deliberately? ) their pencil boxes take a dive, scatter themselves, after which they bend to retrieve the items, during which time, their question paper would fly off the desk; double scramble in order to grab that, while the answer sheet now flies off. In the meantime, the others on the same bench are assisting, with the result that even their things get scattered. By this time the examiner also joins in the melee, to restore order, which is then achieved, to the background music of a gentle buzz, a hum and muted laughter.

An inevitable part of the group are the ‘teacher-locators’- a highly evolved species of the examinee pool. Their mission is to be able to locate the position of the teacher/examiner at any given point, basically to facilitate exchange of information between two examinees without being noticed! The way one can spot them, in the random sweeping glance one makes, is to note the pairs of eyes that immediately shift away.

The most creative, I have personally found, the boldest too are the “paper-pushers”- quite unlike their government counterparts, these enlist the help of other examinees, to push their papers or have others’ papers pushed towards them. How they manage to do this in the presence of the examiner on duty is what confounds. Fortunately, such souls are usually noticed, identified, and appropriate counselling given to ensure it does not happen again. That it doesn’t, most times is a sign that innocence and doing the right thing are still valued!

Whoever said that an examiner’s duty is unvarying, needs to simply look around for such samples to engage themselves and infuse some liveliness into what is seen as a duty bordering on boredom.

6 February, 2015

Examination duty and time on hand and no better work to do those three hours, gives rise to such diatribes 😀
Day#26 of #RamblingsInFebruary 🙂

february ramblings

Author: Usha Pisharody

A rambler, pretends to be a teacher, loves to dream, and go on Quixotic Quests in the Realm of Romance With Life...

9 thoughts on “Testing Times

  1. LOL!! reminded me of times I sat in the halls and I think I should write about my observation of teachers 😛

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Pingback: Ramblings In February – Mission Accomplished! | A Quest on Overdrive ... :)

  3. Helen Keller’s name evokes such awe
    ‘Tis amazing what she observed and ‘saw’
    But you’re no less
    Under invigilation duress
    You invariably set off a smile, if not a guffaw!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hello ma’am,
    I haven’t checked your blog in eons..! I should do so some time soon…but the last post I saw was this one and imagine my surprise at seeing this on the open page of The Hindu! Looking at the heading made me go “I’ve heard this before..” and then…I saw the byline! I was so thrilled! Anyway, congrats Ma’am! (not sure if that’s the right thing to say….but I hope you understand what I mean!)

    Anyhow….I wonder which archetype am I? I think I’d be a sweat’er’…

    Also…I too find Helen Keller’s experiences with examinations pretty interesting….I sometimes have experiences like that during social science examination….where sometimes I remember the line before and line after, but never the actual line I need for the answer!!! But fortunately it all comes right in the end. Somehow it’s reassuring to know that someone as prodigious as Helen Keller could have troubles in examinations too!


  5. First and foremost, Congrats on the article being published in the newspaper! ❤ ❤
    Now the second, sheesh, Usha, where is my category?! I don't fall in any of them 😦 But I recognize almost all of them you describe 😀
    A wonderful post. No wonder it got published! Jiggle away! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh those were such testing times
    when with frost our body rimes:
    As usual you’ve brought out the paradigms
    that even after all these years,a bell chimes.

    I have come across the ‘types’ during my stint as a trainer. The best type I like are the ones who try to make you give them the answers. Congrats on the publication in The Hindu. 🙂


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