The two-hour wait prior to writing an exam is an exam in itself. One always mentally prepares oneself for writing an exam, but it’s these two hours before, that also need preparation. What should one do to perfectly optimise this waiting period? As students assemble outside the examination hall, they lose all composure and dissolve into their animalistic selves, depicting the peculiar ways in which they respond to stress.
Here is a categorization of the different kinds of students one can find in the wait before the exam.
THE LONE GENIUS
It isn’t easy to find this person before an exam. They cannot be found amongst the masses. This person finds a quiet, secluded place away from the rest, and revises systematically and methodically. They typically have with them notes that summarise the entire syllabus to simplify their revision. This allows them to dodge the anxiety and panic in the air, and attain the ideal headspace to write an exam. ‘A clear, cool, calm, confident mindset’- the telos of every student, attainable only by these perfectionists in time management, who stun everyone with their brilliance. They walk into the exam hall with a reassuring smile to themselves and walk out with a satisfied one. If their revision calls for some discussion, then they discuss the paper only with the other students who fall under this category. Within this elite group of intellectuals, they engage in healthy competition.
When the average student first opens their books to begin studying, they envision themselves becoming this person. Only a handful succeed.
THE PANIC INDUCER
It is advisable to avoid these people before the exam. On their arrival, they instantaneously impart their nervousness to all those around them. Their mission is to donate their excessive panic to a minimum of ten people, else they cannot sit for the exam. They run around with their arms flailing, yelling out questions and answers in an attempt to revise. A conversation with them results in one doubting whether they have studied at all. With a bundle of the previous ten-year question papers in one hand and a guide book in the other, they notify the other students of their conviction that this year’s paper will be the hardest one yet. In addition to this, they also impart other poorly sourced rumours of corrections being stricter, a sudden addition to the syllabus (unheard of till that moment), and a change in the question paper pattern. These unhelpful, panic-inducing crumbs of information are dropped by them to be naively picked up by the other students, who then follow suit and spread the terror.
THE BROKEN DOWN
Exams have broken these students. Exhaustion has wrecked them. Stress has annihilated their will to study. They roam outside the hall aimlessly, trudging from one person to another in search of any semblance of inspiration to care about the exam. The fear of being unable to recall what they’ve learnt exists someplace deep inside them but is masked by layers of weariness. In a venture to revise, they open up their books, but to no particular page. Any page will do at this moment. “There’s no point anyway”, they mutter to themselves, as their sleep-starved eyes try to read what’s before them. Like the category of ‘The Lone Genius’, they may occasionally separate themselves from the group to find a quiet spot to rest their eyes. For them ‘sleep’ is a thing of the past, a memory of a kinder and happier world.
THE POCKETFUL OF SUNSHINE
Like the previous category, these people have adopted the ‘can’t care anymore’ sensibility, although it manifests differently in them. This group of people account for the rare sight of smiles and the sound of laughter heard before giving an exam. They engage in conversations circling around any topic other than the exam. They are strictly opposed to revision. Any exam related question directed to them is received with a nonchalant shrug of the shoulders, a laugh at their inability to bother and them skipping away. They refuse to waste any more of their worry on the exam. They firmly believe that they have studied enough, and now their success no longer lies in their hands. In these moments before the exam, they immerse themselves in a new found optimistic and merry outlook towards life. On observing their ‘let’s talk about sunshine and rainbows’ attitude, students are filled with an adrenaline rush to put their books away and live on the lighter side of the life by not revising.
THE ALL OF THE ABOVE
Falling under this category are the specimens who exhibit traits of all the above groups. They do not have a fixed plan of action before the exam, and hence imitate that of the others. In an initial attempt to revise, they sit aside and lay out a few books. Midway, they realise that group revision is more helpful, and hence run off to join ‘The Panic Inducers’. After spending a significant amount of time with this category, their thought processes begin malfunctioning due to the sheer overload of panic, and they embrace the ‘can’t care philosophy’ of the ‘Broken Down’ and the ‘Pocketful of Sunshine’. Their behaviour will then follow one of the two trajectories of these categories- Either the fatigue begins to creep onto their body, or they have a sudden upbeat skip in their step.
Thus, the behaviour of the students waiting to fill empty, ruled sheets, with scrawls of what they have crammed into their heads, all boils down to their preparation so far, their threshold of anxiety and the decision on whether or not to partake in last minute revision. When the doors to the examination hall open, these categories dissolve to form new ones- the types of people one finds in an exam. A sequel to the various absurdities of character that an examination causes.