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“A Strange Beast – Exams!” Ponders Private Tutor.

June 12, 2013
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Thoughts From The Corner

I am currently drowning in exam papers. Metaphorically ‘drowning’ because there are no actual papers! All is done in the virtual world online. In the olden days the postman used to deliver hundreds of examination scripts. Today I only have a question paper, a Mark Scheme and several sample scrips from the senior examiners.

Want to see a fun 3 minute video of exam technique that I put together? Check this out:

Collectively examinations are a strange beast that becomes all-consuming as candidates attempt to peak at a specific time on a specific day. My job, as a home tutor, is to fine-tune a candidate for that specific time.

Of all the places I started to ponder ‘Exam Peaking’ was on a recent cruise to the Mediterranean. It didn’t feel like the Med. though with a two metre wave swell; perhaps that’s why my mind wandered back to the day job.

After almost one week out of Southampton it’s amazing how home life receded into the distance. What took priority at home, on a day-day basis, just didn’t seem important (or relevant) anymore. Things such as checking emails, reading blogs I am following, looking what my friends on ‘Facebook’ are up to – all didn’t seem that important any more.

I pondered this lack of interest in my life back home and began to see a correlation with academic exams. ‘Out of sight out of mind’ is an oft quoted saying that seems applicable. As human beings it is the ‘here and now’ which consumes us. Selfish? Yes. True? Definitely.

The same could be said of exams. Giving private tuition I follow the syllabus of an examination board, guide my students over the academic hurdles, push and cajole them down the final straight with respect to revision techniques then onto examination techniques and finally they take the final step alone – exams!

"examination techniques"

English: School children doing exams inside a classroom, 1940. Children sitting at their school desks in a classroom doing scholarship examinations, 16 April 1940. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Countless hours pounding the keyboard, umpteen hours revising and it all rests on two or three hours sitting on a hardback chair in a dour, dull, echoing examination hall. For what? To get that longed-for piece of paper. That is the ‘here and now’.

What happens later? Well, you forget many of the things that were so important at the time, your life moves on and what was the ‘here and now’ fades into the dim and distant mists of time. Names of triangles disappear, dates of famous battles cannot be recalled and who cares about the major themes running through ‘Pride and Prejudice’?

English tutors do! Home or away,  my love affair with Jane Austen will always be the here and now. She may not be the prettiest girl on the block but she certainly found a way into my heart. 🙂

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Jane Austen, Watercolour and pencil portrait by her sister Cassandra, 1810 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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14 Comments
  1. Nice video/presentation. I could have done with someone like you a certain number of decades back when I ‘fluffed’ the whole exam thing, due to teenage insouciance!

  2. Teenagers – don’t you just love them!

    Thanks for taking time out to comment.

  3. Thank you for taking time out to reply.

    As to teenage, it was great while it lasted, but I’m so glad it’s over.

  4. Exams, I remember them………so many years, so much work and a 3 hour exam!

  5. I’ve seen prettier drawings of Jane. I also have a love affair with her writing, including some of the juvenilia. As for exams, I went through both the paper-based and computerised way, and this modern electronic thing just seems strange.

    • First name terms eh? You must be close. When we meet I always call her ‘Miss. Austen’.

      I’m beginning to hate computers. 🙂

      • One of my good friends has just published a book (a real academic book!) on Austen, so I feel like we are vicariously close… 🙂

  6. Nice video clip – I could’ve done with it when I turned up for my English A level in the afternoon when it was all over and done with by lunchtime. Sorry you’re drowning I’d throw you a life belt but then how do I know if you can swim. Good Luck.

  7. Enjoyed the clip – I passed but never aced exams. Back in the day, I did not do well under pressure and even pop-quizzes rattled me. I’m much better at project oriented tasks. Mapping them out, doing research and writing. Your description of sitting in a hard backed chair in a dour dull examination room brought it all back to me. Good post.

    • Thanks for the great comment. I guess your over-joyed at Michael Gove’s new G.C.S.E. proposals. 🙂

      • Being from the US and decades past ever having to take an exam again, I don’t have to be concerned. The educational system in the UK far surpasses ours here in the US (don’t quote me on that ). Yet, given Michael Gove stands on the conservative side of things, we’d probably never get along. 🙂

  8. Here’s hoping you manage to keep your head above water … er … paper … er … “data” … 😀

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