#BEDM - 16th: things I have learned invigilating

This week I've been working at a local secondary school with a sixth form.  It's week one of the five-week long summer exam season, and I've been invigilating exam sessions and generally helping out in the exams office.  Whilst I've taken a lot of exams in my life time, I've never really seen (or even thought about) what happens to exam papers after the students have finished the exam.  I invigilated a few times when I was at Durham, but at the end of the session we just had to drop off the papers at the main office, or a lecturer came to take them away.  I've now seen a bit more of the process, and learned an awful lot in a few days!  Here are just a few things I've observed...

  • Invigilating can be rather dull.  For up to three hours (depending on the length of the exam) you're in silence, watching students writing.  You can sit at the front for a bit, move around for a bit, stand up for a bit, but never too much walking as you don't want to disturb the students.  When a student puts their hand up asking to use the bathroom it is almost a fight between the invigilators to accompany them as it involves a change of scene!
  • Counting things helps to keep you alert, and focusing on the students rather than just passively looking at them.  How many people are wearing polo shirts, how many have their jumper on and what's this as a percentage?  How many students have brought in sweets?  What's the preferred sweet of the GCSE year?  Is this different in the sixth form?  Ah, a hand has gone up, I'll quickly pick up the continuation answer booklet and take it to them!
  • I invigilated a room which had a few students who were allowed to type their answers on a laptop.  They saved their document regularly, I told them at the beginning and end of the exam to save it, and as soon as the exam was finished the documents were saved on to a USB stick to be taken to the office to print.  The documents weren't deleted from the laptop until the papers were printed.  But for quarter of an hour or so, until I had a physical copy in my hand, I couldn't help but think of all the ways I could accidentally drop/damage the USB stick and then return to the (locked) room only to find someone had already cleared the laptops...argh!  Thankfully, it was all okay and the papers were printed, but there was a slight panic when one student had saved their work as SubjectSurnameForename rather than the suggested order and it wasn't where I expected it to be!
  • You are bound to sneeze the loudest sneeze you've ever sneezed when you're standing at the front of a sports hall containing 150 students.
  • Chocolate biscuits make everything better.


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