Medical Exams in Parking Lots: Memoirs of an Observant Student
By the end of this year, tens of thousands of students will enter a race towards acquiring the best medical scores. For many, this undertaking is viewed as a terrifying phase that is out to get them. Many parents and the students themselves acknowledge that a moderate and healthy dose of concern is motivation. An all-out fear and dread of this venture can be incapacitating.
Yes, I’m talking about the fear that grips us all – the final exam. There used to be a huge competitive edge in my class. Months prior to exams, students begin to assemble material, gather references and spend hours in isolation. Every year, we all got to experience a new variation in the realm, namely the center of examination.
Most judged it simply by the name, some judged it by the way it sounded and still others, by the sight of it. There’s nothing wrong with the location of the exam. Where the teachers preach anywhere from the broken homes, torn shelters and even rubble, aimed at making their environments comfortable, vital and appropriately resourced learning centers; therefore I don’t mind a fresh breeze of air. The conduct of examination had been juggling for justified spots for the past three years.
This year, we all were seated in a huge ground known to the inhabitants as the parking lot. Some of my friends were given a hallway and one friend of mine was allotted the most wanted place of the world – the hall itself. The space provided had several distractions; there were still at least three cars parked; one even had a driver within. Thank goodness there were shelters which were basically the tents pitched in from last night’s private gathering.
The seating arrangement had been ordered out of a catering company where I could still smell the bliss of sweet marriage. The table upon which we were to rest our flooded sheets was a simple square cut-out piece of wood resting upon a cross metallic holder which, if dealt with otherwise,would have led to the fall of a menace. I was immediately reminded of how this could be the perfect example of being environment friendly because the area we were to attempt our lives was purely planned out of a recycle, reuse initiative. Therefore I actually wanted to appreciate the authority’s shot at improvising.
My problem was the conduct of the exam. The invigilation team, who added insult to injury, was very ill organized, yapped during the session, had ridiculous tea breaks, and even mocked at some students for no apparent reason. I was charged with coming late to the lot, and was asked to await handouts at least ten minutes late which felt like ten years as the bullet down my memory lane flashed right before my eyes. I was also charged with misbehaving which I completely plead guilty of as I was very frustrated and pushed just to find my parking space.
Of course, they had no desire to trick, confuse, or fail students. Following allotment of the candidates and handouts, the team announced the start and finish time which was challenged by more than one voice. Minutes flew by as debate raged into the lot demanding surplus time as compensation and a treat for the bystanders as well. While I sat there waiting for justice be served, my mind boggled the tips for a successful exam endeavor.
I shuffled advertisements from one of those classy pens which apparently were emphasized upon as the getaway to stardom and a successful life. Later I thought to myself, ‘What else did the books on “How to beat exam jitters” say?’ Is the lighting adequate? Is the chair comfortable? Is the cellular device turned off? Is the water bottle ready? And calculators and the stationary gear? Yes, I said to myself. I wasn’t wasting precious time as I had been asked to sit the first few minutes out therefore pitying the rest of the hall not having to go through the meditation.
During the session, I only hoped that my search for the correct answer was broken by a gush of paragraph highlights in the night’s cramming the day before and not by the invigilator’s intense voice made many students angry. One portion of the class was esteemed and hyperactive. This class of genes wanted to show off their knowledge. Their willingness to oblige the subject gave me chills. To me the sight of bowed heads wriggling in the air with excitement and the thrill of disclosing information was truly a heartening sight.
However, not everyone got a chance to shed their humor and knowledge. That feeling of all subject material being wiped out from the mind, poor attention and concentration, an overwhelming and unfunded fear of failing and some physical symptoms too were perilous. Well, even in such a scenario, there are heads bent over books, cramming in words which seem to be written in Dutch! Though the students have done away with the age-old practice of cheating using portable electronic devices and the traditional cheats; as funny as it sounds, some students still insist upon going through the trouble of loading their cheat gear instead of studying the same material which roughly would have taken the same amount of time.
Getting through final exams, especially to my concern the medical exams, students were told off several times but the plea had fallen upon the deaf ears. The invigilators too were busy talking issues, swapping rotations and ignoring diversions created by the smart students to whom the situation of being caught was not fraught with danger. As the dilemma pondered, students created diversion in numerous conducts which included complete pretentious absorption in the task: a simple cough, dropping stationery items, nomadic preoccupation in a chore, suddenly bending down and trying to concentrate on tying one’s shoe lace (even if you are not wearing one). Even if caught, the students justified their practice with a threat to render one fired, beaten up or even a complimentary trip to the heavens above.
I asked myself – who are these people? And why are they appearing for the exam? Why do these people get the much awaited reservations tens and thousands of young boys and girls fight their souls for? These special students are not only given a warm welcome into the exam session, but also aided with full time and space to flourish.
I recall the moment where a girl had walked in right into the lot, given a chair and paper to begin with, about thirty minutes late. The memory of ominous silence after her arrival and that stunned look in the eyes of the fellow peers is burned in my mind. That innocent yet interested face exploring options easily cheated through the entire exam while in one of the other sittings, a student walked in to mark his attendance and walked out afterwards. This sort of a VIP treatment leaves behind that genuine value and celebrated achievements of students working hard and funding their responsibilities; however, others hit their target in terms of meeting the dreams and aspirations of their parents and others.
Don’t get me wrong. The system is by no means perfect, but some people in it work hard at delivering an educational offering that is as good as it can be. Given the challenges and pressure our system faces, I think it will go from strength to strength over the decades ahead. I had confronted the students afterwards and asked for their refreshing take on the subject. That kind of query didn’t really encourage nice gestures as each looked at the other wondering where the catch was.
About the Author: Eman A. Khaled was born and raised in Saudi Arabia. Her profound interest in Public Health led to active contribution to research work which landed her a publication in Pakistan Journal of Surgery. She strongly believes in public service and channels her energies into volunteer duties at various hospitals, Pakistan Red Crescent Society and the Rotaract Club of Karachi. Eman created user-friendly leaflets for malaria and vaccination awareness programs targeted towards the under-privileged masses and currently works at King Fahd Medical and Research City, Saudi Arabia. Eman can be contacted [email protected]
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