A piece on NUS examinations

NUS exams – they’re an experience in themselves. Every step of the way is somehow terrifying to one and all, whether you are prepared or not. But this piece is written not to comment on whether you studied or not, but about the atmosphere.

It was a scary experience for me, to say the least.

I walk into the MPSH area and the first thing that hits me is that there are SO MANY PEOPLE. So freaking many.

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This isn’t real. I get terrified at the sheer number of people. Then, a good deal of them are holding notes, books, files, some even laptop computers.

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There’s a nervous buzz in the air, everyone’s saying hello to their friends and then quickly shifting back to their books. OR, they say hi, take a deep breath and release their entire bout of nervous energy to the person whom they meet. This is contagious. Soon, the whole group is buzzing with said nervousness. This happens in every other group.

Then there are those who sit alone, in a corner, muttering to themselves formulas, concepts, ideas, etc…pouring over cheatsheets…

I find a place to sit (finally!) because it was so hard to get one, every nook and cranny of MPSH was filled. Then I turn to my right and I see someone – his head is in his hands, a jacket clad figure, either praying or sleeping, I’m not sure which.

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I turn to my left and there are two girls talking about the bell curve and how it would determine their grade and how their assignments’ grades have doomed them for failure because they were unable to get an A-. They continue on for the next 10 minutes on how the professor was such and such and how their tutorial had such and such person. I zone out…

I come back to reality and I see people jostling, poking their heads here and there to find their names on the seating plan, I then realise the new seating plans have been updated from the previous exam. Everyone’s jittery and I can taste the fear. I don’t just hear it from conversations about how ill-prepared person X and Y and their group of friends are, I can see it in the body language.

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Everyone’s just scared right now. It’s 8.55am and the area is nearly filled to the brim. The doors really need to be open now.

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Then 8.56am, everyone shifts together as a collective body, it hits you, the doors are open, you’re in for this. Then the scramble for the jacket, and the matric card and the pencil case come out, then the jostling to enter the room. The frenzy goes from the crowd into your mind.

Everyone sits down, some random announcement that plays like a tape recorder every exam is read out.

9am.

It begins.

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