Wednesday 4 February 2009

Just for the Record

We spend an afternoon locked in a quiet office
scrutinising exam papers.

Everything must be perfect.
Font, format, spelling, grammar,
language, content, style.
There is no room for error.

The Chair of the Exam Board is a serious, careful academic.
He is exceptionally methodical.
His attention to detail is quite frightening.
He is just the right person for the job.

The word 'amongst' is rejected as archaic;
the word 'impacted' is rejected as nouveau
and the word 'conceptualise' as too difficult.

The ex-vegetarian academic who enthuses about duck
is also passionate about commas.

The answer to one question is "Woolly Mammoths"
and the academic next to me says
"Have you ever thought about
how much a woolly mammoth ate?"

The academic who reminds me of Ali enthuses
"What an amazing idea!
What a fascinating question!
We teach our students such interesting topics.
This has made me fall in love with my subject
all over again."

One Professor is in disgrace
because his exam paper is so badly written
that it is rejected.

The tiny American academic
has written an exam paper that is much admired.
The questions are concise, thought provoking and varied.

Another Professor has re-used a question from last year.
This sort of recycling is NOT considered good form.

There is much anxious shuffling
when the paper of one of the panel members is considered.
Each correction is agreed with an embarrassed laugh
and there is a heartfelt sigh of relief
at the end of the process.

After four hours my brain begins to melt
and the corrections on the papers
seem to merge


driftwood said...

gosh, all that behind the scenes trauma that we never knew happened, and I thought the hard part was actually taking the exam......

The Coffee Lady said...

I love the idea of rejecting words. We spent a happy ten minutes snorting at 'experimentality', a word Mr Coffee recently brought home from a meeting at a University

Mary said...

I agree with Driftwood - never ever before have I considered what goes on behind the scenes of exam sitting.

I do know I loathed them!

Anonymous said...

my oh my. It sounds as hard as doing the exams!!!

We used to bet our boss to use silly words in presentations to Clients.

Once he managed to use bedside table and latex mattress in a fundraising presentation to Christian Aid, completely in context too.

Anonymous said...

I would have not thought it such a long process. I hope there were snacks :)

Allison said...

You have made me break out into a fine, cold sweat thinking about my GREs.

OMG, Monica I am laughing so hard. "Latex mattress?" LOL

Eleanor said...

You know that your "Just for the Record" posts are my favourite?!

As I read each line I became more and more anxious...those standards are set so high, but it's business isn't it...and not personal...I find it hard to separate the two in my life.

P.S. Is comment moderation in place just in case I write "amongst"? Couldn't resist the joke, but of course I understand and I hope that you didn't experience any hurtful or offensive comments.

Ali said...

I would like my epitaph to include 'she was passionate about commas'.