15 May 2017

Complex invigilating

I was asked to help invigilate the exam of the first year module I had taught on. The exam would be in PJ Hall; the rather glorious hall in the main building. That seemed a bit much. We don't have enough students to fill that up! When I went up there anyway a security guard tried to stop me; there were signs of "no entry; exams" everywhere. They only remove these when they're ready to let the students in. And I still  look like a student so I had to face this grumpy person before I could do my task. When will people finally assume I'm staff?

Once in I found out the size of the hall was taken into account; it turned out there were four exams there happening at the same time. Apart from ours, there was one from History, one from the Business School on investment banking, and one from the School of Linguistics on bilingualism. Interesting stuff! Except from the investment banking then.

For a start, the multiple exams required the guiding of all students to the correct part of the hall, where their exam papers were lying ready. That also took a while, so we started ten minutes late. A chap from the Business School read out the rules. The students from Ocean Science were in the back. We were the only school with a MCQ, so we were the ones likely to leave first. Sounds reasonable to seat us at the back, but all students who are finished have to walk to the front to hand in their work.

Halfway down the exam the other invigilator had to go, so I was on my own. And that was unfortunate, as ideally, there is someone at the front to check the work being handed in while another stays at the back to keep an eye on things, and to answer any student questions. That didn't happen! I hoped for the best regarding the handed-in answer sheets and stayed at the back.

As expected, our students were all done before time was up. When the last one was done I collected the question and answer sheets and went to have them checked out. And not all was well! One answer sheet was missing. We know who is in the room; all students fill out a piece of paper. If you match these with the answer sheets you know whose work is missing. And that's a lot of work; we had 91 students, and putting 91 (or 90) answer sheets in alphabetic order is more work than you may think. Reading the handwriting is also not always easy.

In the end we figured the missing sheet was by a student who had been behaving unusually. He had drawn lots and lots of attention to himself. Was that a coincidence? It's hard to know.

The ladies in charge of overall proceedings thought there probably was no answer sheet; the student had been too suspicious. I thought we should not draw any conclusions until we would have asked the other invigilators if maybe the answer sheet had ended up among theirs. The ladies said you could tell I didn't have 20 years' worth of experience with this sort of thing. Maybe I'm naive! But anyway;   if it would not be found among the other exams, it was really not there. Whose fault; ours or the student? We may never know. It's not the way it should be but one is fallible!

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