Live blog: inside the exam room

by kattiewampus

Happy Cinco de Mayo everyone. Today also marks the start of the spring exam season for the law students where I work. Read: three weeks of heightened stress, emotions, and miscommunication in our office as we are responsible for administering the exams. Read: three weeks of me being the on-call proctor when the student proctors fail to show up.

This afternoon is a classic example: I found out this morning that I would be proctoring an exam as soon as I got into work at 1 pm today. The exam is for three LLM students (the LLM program is for international law students). It’s 4.5 hours long. It actually started before I got here. So, I’m in this room until 5 pm. It’s going to be pretty exciting – definitely the stuff of live blogs.

2:09 pm: let’s recap. Since I took over, here are the things that have happened.

  • At 1:15, I informed the students they could start the written portion of the exam.
  • Texted my co-worker about the stale cookies he was eating in the main office
  • Read “The Happiness Project”
  • Checked my e-mail
  • Checked facebook
  • Checked my blog
  • Ate the pizza that a co-worker brought up to me
  • Started reading The Pioneer Woman’s blog
  • Started writing this
  • Worried about whether or not my typing was distracting to the students
  • Told a student what time it was so she could sign out to use the restroom
  • Gave a student a pen so he could sign out to use the restroom
  • Watched the clock
  • Contemplated my existence
  • Questioned my existence
  • Ate some more pizza
  • Felt self-conscious about eating pizza, especially since my chair squeaks every time I lean over to take a bite

2:16 pm: finished writing the above list of bullet points

2:21 pm: I’m debating whether my duties as a proctor require me to actually be awake the entire time, or just a physical presence.

2:22 pm: I can’t believe it’s only been a minute since I last wrote something

2:42 pm: just crunched awkwardly loud on my pizza crust. I’m very suave like that.

2:54 pm: DRAMA. One of the students wanted to get his copy of the Constitution out of his bag. It’s an open book test, but they still have to leave their bags at the front of the room. I told him I would need to ask first (read: texting my boss). Student goes back to work on test. Eventually signals to me that he does not need it after all. Meanwhile, boss replies with a negative. I just love being the middle man.

3:09 pm: background context: the students type their tests into an online program called SofTest. One of the students raises her hand because she wants to move onto the next question but the program won’t let her. So, I explain that, with the way the test is configured, they type all of their answers into the box for Question 1. Just call me Tech Support.

3:27 pm: one of the students is leafing through his notes, one page at a time. Loudly. Why.

4:04 pm: my lips are really chapped.

4:06 pm: chapstick is awesome.

4:18 pm: I looked up and saw that one of the students had her head down on the desk, cradled in her hands. Oh dear. Another student noisily crumpled up a piece of paper.

4:23 pm: proctoring gives me too much time to think.

4:27 pm: it looked like one of the students was flipping off no one in particular. Turns out she was just counting on her fingers.

4:28 pm: did I mention that it’s freezing in here?

4:37 pm: the students are alternating between glancing at the clock, staring intensely at their computer screens, and flipping violently through their books/notes as if the secrets of the universe are contained in there.

4:39 pm: over gmail chat, my co-worker is trying to explain snapchat to me. The whole concept sounds like a terrible idea.

4:43 pm: 12 minutes until I give the 5 minute warning. I get very stressed out during the final stretch – I’m afraid I’ll become completely distracted and forget to notice when they have 5 minutes left.

4:44 pm: I’ve made accidental eye contact with one of the students so many times over the past few hours. Awkward. Although in my defense, I’m supposed to be keeping an eye on them.


4:53 pm: tech support is here to help upload the tests.

4:55 pm: “You have 5 minutes left.”

4:59 pm: “You have 1 minute left.”

5:00 pm: This is the script that I have to read to officially end the exam:

“The exam is now over. Please stop typing immediately and remain seated. No talking while exams are still out. On the top bar of your screen, click ‘Exit Exam’. Click on ‘Close Exam’. On the yellow window, click the ‘Exit’ button. Your answer file will automatically upload once you establish an internet connection. Once uploaded, you will get a message on your screen. If you experience any upload issues please raise your hand immediately. Put your exam materials in the envelope in the order listed on the board. Ensure that your 4-digit blind grading ID is on everything. If you accidentally take any portion of this exam out of this room with you, professors are free not to accept it and may give you a zero for that portion of the test. Please bring your envelopes to the front of the room now.”

Fun, right???