Monday, September 26, 2005

A Review of the Deletrious Effects of Exams on the Student Psyche

Well, here we go again. What is it with exams and me? Every time an exam approaches I get this irresistible urge to crank out yet another literary masterpiece. 'Tis a pity no one's noticed yet, but I understand that these things take time. Being way ahead of your time is by no means a pleasant job, but I guess someone's got to do it. Oh well.
Onward ho, then. It's third cycle time now, a time when desperate engineers make last ditch attempts to salvage their internals and prevent their grades from plumbing the depths of the afore-mentioned ditch. It is a time of intense stress and nervous-breakdown-inducing tension, a time when the tough really get going (or atleast need to). When they (or we, I should say) attempt to relieve this stress, fiery in its intensity and piercing in the agony it causes, it results in behavior that would cause any casual observer to abandon his casualness in a hurry and dial feverishly the number of the nearest madhouse.
One of the things that contribute to this state of apparent insanity is the characteristic exam time look that the average NITTian acquires around this time. Hair grows unchecked all over the face. There is no time for bathing, let alone shaving, what with having to cram the whole semester's portions in a couple of days' time. I believe that some even take their books to the potty on the morning of the exam. Even I was shocked-appalled-disgusted when I heard of the extremes people go to when faced with impending doom. The grime accumulates and after a week or so when the supply of deodorant runs out it becomes worse. Eyes become red due to lack of sleep and there's this hunted look about him that, combined with all the hair, gives him more than just a passing resemblance to an escaped convict.
I remember one particular time when things really got out of hand, when people began acting really strangely, even by normal examination standards. It was in the 3rd semester, during the final semester examination time, our first major test after getting into our respective departments. We were eager to make a good first impression on the faculty by performing well, or atleast try and redeem ourselves after an especially poor performance in the cycle tests (atleast, that was the case with me). Also, it didn't help that several guys who had taken the first two semesters pretty easily had suddenly turned into real psychos after entering the department, continually moaning about how bad their preparation was, when it really wasn't. Anyway, whatever the reasons, that semester things reached breaking point.
One of my friends (one of the afore-mentioned psychos) in the neighbouring room had taken to poking his head out of the room every half hour or so and screaming at the top of voice for a full ten seconds in order to vent his frustration. This went on for a couple of times until the rest of us decided to pay him a brief visit and apprise him of the consequences of continuing in a similar vein. Needless to say, his rather effective imitation of a hyperactive banshee ceased immediately. Another immediately noticeable effect was that our senses of humour had suddenly become dumbed down. A joke that would have normally been accepted by any jury as perfectly reasonable grounds for homicide now evoked shrill, nervous laughter. Eyes dart furtively to clocks/watches every now and then to make sure there's still enough time to cram that 5-mark question which, you know, is sure to come. Guys visit their branchmates in neighbouring rooms at regular intervals to hear reassuring dialogues such as:
1.) "Arre, vaat lagi hui hai, yaar..."
2.) "Man, am I screwed or am I screwed? I hope you'll be too, we'll go down together.... Seriously though, do you really think I'll be screwed?"
3.) "Christ, when the hell did he teach that?"
4.) " Oh good, you're here, now teach me this...."
Truly, misery loves company. And if I remember correctly, that particular semester my tension manifested itself in one supreme act of madness: I took a bath.
Even Vairamuthu, who no one (atleast no one who has read that shining example of literary genius, my previous post about him) would have expected to be fazed by something as trivial as an exam, was not immune to the stress. Strangely, though, throughout that particular semester exam period he maintained his Buddha-like calm while everyone else was doing the loony act. He fell prey sometime around the start of this semester, around first cycle time. I have mentioned earlier that his room transforms into something of a Mecca around exam time; and that he receives a continuous stream of ignorant visitors seeking enlightenment. They never return disappointed. Apparently, this started getting to him. Beneath the calm exterior there lurked a maelstrom of seething emotions that tormented him without respite. Alright, not really, I got carried away. But you get the idea, right? Anyway, to give the impression he wasn't in the room he used to latch the door from outside (it's possible to do that, there's this window through which the latch can be reached), leave that window open, squeeze himself into the largest shelf of the room (which is out of view of the window) and study. Extreme.
All this craziness, the stress and the tension makes me wonder, what purpose do these exams really serve? Is a 9 pointer really better than a 7 pointer, especially in a place like NITT where everyone's at more or less the same level? I'm sure the answer to that question, from any and every quarter, would be an emphatic no. Therefore, they defeat their ostensible purpose, which is that of providing a measure of how much a student has learnt. Are examinations really necessary? I think so, because there must be some method of evaluating performance. Then what remains to be done is to change the nature of the exams, to make each and every question test the level of understanding of the subject. Each question must provide situations wherein the student has to apply the principles he has learnt in order to solve the problem, and that will be possible only when understanding is there. That it is easier, and infinitely more enjoyable to understand than to memorize, I think you will agree. Only then, I think, will the drive to work harder be there, the will to prove that you can understand and not merely remember. And only then will the madness stop.

39 Comments:

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At 1:23 AM, Blogger desperado said...

brilliant blog i must say
n man exams really suck
can appreciate as i am myself in a engg insitute
im in Indian Institute of Information Tehnology n Management Gwalior

n that piece on RA's was mind blowing

keep up the gr8 stuff comin
n i am sure comin back

 
At 3:06 AM, Blogger >|' ; '| said...

i can identify with ur feelings about examinations...but just when i reach the convict state...i usually get reborn and see things in perspective :-)

 
At 4:21 AM, Blogger ~*. D E E P A .* ~ said...

hey monk ....

thanx for dropping by ..
somehow , i never went crazy during exams .. i mean , i always thot of the vacation that was to come after an exam .. so ...

 
At 5:16 AM, Blogger manjari said...

well written...stress...even the young kids have not been spared...i read about a helpline in mumbai for students...some of the callers were 10-11 yrs old...

 
At 5:56 AM, Blogger TripleSix said...

hey....
thnks for droppin by on my blog
i'm sry i havn't read ur post,cos i need to rush,but i did go through ur profile...
must say,u have a good taste in books and music..
i have jst finished listenin to unplugged eric clapton and now i'm listenin to steely dan.both are good.u must try them out...
wat book ru readin now a days?
take care...

 
At 7:43 AM, Blogger Phoenix Rises said...

Hi!
Thanks for dropping by on my blog. :)

I never freaked out during exam time when I was in school and even when I was pursuing my degree. But now that I'm doing PG studies and my internship it's getting really, really crazy!! So I can definitly empathize with you! :D

BTW, you seem to be getting spammed. You can activate password verification on your blog if you wanna stop the spam.

 
At 7:45 AM, Blogger Phoenix Rises said...

Hey!
Almost forgot! You've got a nice, amusing writing style, which at first seemed a tad too wordy! I enjoyed reading this post. :D

 
At 9:43 AM, Blogger the Monk said...

Right...I don't really mind exams when they're good and fun to do...like IIT-JEE was...in fact, I didn't have any problem with any of the engg. entrances as they didn't require any mugging up at all...just a clear understanding of the basics...got screwed in the Boards,though... :)..even in NITT, not all of the exams are bad...I don't mind maths at all...but we have to do a lot of memorizing which REALLY gets on our nerves...
triplesix: me currently readin Pearl S. Buck's The Good Earth...pretty good so far...badly want to read Rushdie's latest...
Deepa: the vacation thing's the only thing keeps us going...the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel...

 
At 9:44 AM, Blogger Random said...

just an exam monk...stuff u will totally forget abt the day after. stressful nonetheless. been there done that.

 
At 11:00 AM, Blogger Mirage said...

lol!! Gosh man...good luck with the killer exams! N um do try n tidy up a bit...i knw i must be sounding like ur mum, but cant help it! I wud rather sit for an exam with a blank mind, than a stinking body! neway, all the best man! :)

 
At 1:29 PM, Blogger Weary Hag said...

I agree with the previous reader. Take a shower ... think of it as a cleansing of the mind from all the other rubble that seems to take up space while you're trying hard to focus on all that you know.
Truthfully, I never minded exams so much. It was the studying that I abhored.
Nice post ... keep up the good writing ... and thanks for stopping by!

 
At 9:46 PM, Blogger Aditi said...

thanks 4 visiting my blog...
ur experiences are rather familiar!

 
At 6:11 AM, Blogger the Monk said...

Right, people...will try the bathing thing...might feel kinda strange, though.... ;)...

 
At 10:11 AM, Blogger kickassso said...

I don't really mind exams when they're good and fun to do...like IIT-JEE was
I think i speak for the public when i say EEKS!
but objective tyoe exams are fun though! only if they could make all exams like that:(

 
At 7:09 AM, Blogger Diabolical Angel! said...

I know that being a humanities student who's still in school i have absolutely no right to crib about exams!! But GOd...i sooo agree with you!! My exams start this week when all my friends are enjoying their vacations and i'm stuck up here trying to "MUG" things up!! Life's just so tragic!

 
At 7:11 AM, Blogger Diabolical Angel! said...

Oh nd best of luck!

 
At 10:31 AM, Blogger Aravind.V said...

Well I am one of those extremely rare persons who doesnt allow exams to get into my nerves. Why I really dont know . I am extremely optimistic person both about my abilities and time. You know.

 
At 9:19 PM, Blogger hotICE said...

Exams are definitely not my piece of cake in the tech skool.. it turns me down and changes me to an entire lump of pessimistic lard..

good work man.. happy blogging

 
At 7:43 AM, Blogger hope and love said...

very true.. exams make you study in an exam oriented way.. there should be regular assesments as a natural part of the accademic activities..

 
At 8:34 AM, Blogger Rahul said...

you are being spammed bigtime pal!
about exams, i guess it is the stress of balancing all our different activities at college that makes 11th hour migging inevitable...

 
At 8:06 AM, Blogger udit said...

hey, nice blog. it's amazing you find the time to blog inspite of being in an engineering college. mannn, it sounds realllly tough.
and that's consistent for iit, nitt, dce anywhere. whyyy o whyyy

 
At 12:16 AM, Blogger the Monk said...

No time? In an engg. college?Dude, we don't do 10% of the work you do in the 11th and 12th...getting into an engg. college is the tough part...staying in it is no big deal...

 
At 4:39 AM, Blogger Camphor said...

Considering about aq coupel of hours ago, I was blogging during an exam... I don't freak out becuase I don't let myself freak out. Yes, exams never used to tense me out till five mintues before it begins, when I can easily ignore the clenching stomach and the little voice telling me I haven't done enough.

Is a 9 pointer really better than a 7 pointer, especially in a place like NITT where everyone's at more or less the same level? Don't know about your college, but to get a 7.0 in mine is doom. Placements get zilch. The difference between the 8.0+ and 9.0+ is memory power, the difference between 7.0+ and 8.0+ is intelligence. At least around here.

 
At 5:39 AM, Blogger the Monk said...

camphor:I'm amazed stunned astonished... i mean, blogging during an exam...admirable...here, the freaking out occurs mainly due to two reasons: relative grading and the competition...it's healthy enough, but i came THIS close to saying cutthroat...the job situation doesn't come into the picture at all...a 6 pointer here, if he has the stuff, gets a better job than a 9 pointer...

 
At 3:09 AM, Blogger Camphor said...

lol, monk, 'twas a comp lab exam, which needed internet access. :D Luckily I didn't get busted.

That first reason explains it. Relative grading is implemented here on an erratic basis - like say, when the entire class is going to flunk out in absolute terms... but by the time you hit third year, we have that jaded look in our eyes - who gives a darn about exams anyway - so it doesn't amtter. Competition I'm not going to accept as a reason fro freakign out - we have four 10.0, a 9.86 (me), four 9.79, and three 9.64 in the top twelve last semester. Sorta as close as it gets.

 
At 9:26 PM, Blogger the Monk said...

I thought so...but still...i stand corrected.... four 10 pointers?here we barely have one for all batches put together (and sometimes not even one)...and u're 9.86????jesucristo, camphor, that's bloody amazin...and here i am tryin to scrape an 8.5...

 
At 11:19 PM, Blogger Guruprasad Kini (Guru) said...

Very heartfelt article this one.
This reminded me of a tale of our college days:-
Long, long ago (8 years back) in an Engg college far, far away (MIT, Manipal to be precise), a group of weary engineer-wannabes were on one of those night-out modes, slogging their sad asses off for the exam next day. Then I walked out the room, sat on floor and lit a cigaratte. I leaned on the gallery parapet and started singing "Hum honge kaamyaab..." ("We shall conquer!") loudly, without thinking. One by one, room doors opened and fagged-out colleague stepped out and joined me, the cigarette passed hands (lack of funds and growing health consciousness had forced us to share fags) and the chorus became louder and louder till most of the hostel block was up. All this at 3 AM!
We continued this tradition till the very end of our engineering days. Sigh, if you allow me to quote BAdams: "Those were the best days of my life".

 
At 2:16 AM, Blogger the Monk said...

cool...seriously,man, hostel life is the best....

 
At 10:21 PM, Blogger xtremely_insane said...

excellent writing.yeah the hysteria continues... hopeless madness becomes omnipresent during those pre exam hours!!

 
At 2:54 AM, Blogger Apoorv Gawde said...

hehe, this may sound weird but exams were the time I slept more, enjoyed watching even the crappiest programs on T.V etc etc. Not too much of a nightmare. especially during MBA when we had an exam virtually every other day, they just lost the importance. :)

 
At 9:00 AM, Blogger Nenlos said...

Nice thing about the bath!

If examinations were solely to evaluate the understanding of students, more than half the student population in india would flunk. This country is too used to cramming for marks. It'll take generations before the trend can be altered.

 
At 7:33 AM, Anonymous Dee said...

All through 12th, wrote all my prep. exams without studying!! I donno why, I hate studying..but like the exams..

the tension and pressure generally associated with exams effectively disappeared in 11th when we had tests every week..we got so used to it, it made practically no difference in our lives..:)

But yeah, in primary school, there was this major scramble 'fore every exam

 
At 7:35 AM, Anonymous Dee said...

yeah...mugging sucks!! No good at it myself..some people are experts in this field!! Donno how..

 
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