Friday, 31 August 2007

Invigilation

Three times a year I leap into the fray to help with exam invigilation for students who require separate supervision. Some of these students get extra time to compensate for various disabilities, and some need separate supervision because they suffer from things like panic attacks or weak bladders. It's a fairly good seasonal job, as it gives you a lot of time for pure thinking, unable to check your email or be distracted by the siren call of the internet.

January and May are the regular exam sessions, whereas in late August and early September we have resits. Two days ago I was supervising and scribing for a student who was sitting an exam for the fourth time. It was especially painful for me, having to scribe a foundation level maths exam for a student who clearly doesn't know his stuff. Part of me wonders why he has been allowed to resit this again - previously he's had to resit the entire year because he failed to pass so many exams - and he has two more resits next week.

You just know that things aren't going to go well when the first thing that a student says (for a paper called Calculus 1) is "I'm not going to pass this, I still don't know differentiation and integration"... The second thing that he said was "I've been staying up late revising all week, I think all the Red Bull has made me sick," just as he cracked open a can and took a big drink from it...

I don't know about universities elsewhere in the country, let alone the world, but going on what I have seen over the last few years it seems that Liverpool is fairly easy-going when it comes to allowing students to resit exams and re-take years (perhaps too relaxed). For the majority of students resitting anything never enters the equation, but I've seen too many situations since I started helping with invigilation where students are time and again given every opportunity to get it together (I'm not talking about the odd resit, I'm referring to serial resitters). For some, like the Red Bull addict, it's not entirely their fault: try as he might he might never pass his foundation year, but if he has tried his best there is no shame in not passing. Whilst I am the first person to talk up the benefits and brilliance of higher education I also recognise that it is not for everyone - academic achievement is not within the reach of all, but it's a big world and there are plenty of opportunities out there.

I cast a suspicious glance at my university in all this though. In allowing students who are possibly incapable of passing exams to resit them they keep down the statistics of students who drop out - and coupled with year on year increases in the total number of students means that if/when they do drop out the overall statistics will seem lower.

Another benefit for the university in all this is that tuition fees (now higher than ever in the UK) keep rolling in while students keep repeating years...

5 comments:

mattiecore said...

Yeah, I'm pretty sure that my school would let someone continually retry like this provided they continually paid tuition. My school loves money.

mattiecore said...

The "they" refers to the failing students, if that wasn't clear

zero_zero_one said...

3/9/2007 Update:
He didn't show up for his exam this morning... I wasted an hour I could have spent in the office, although I was able to get something done... Still get paid though. Silver lining and all that!

noisms said...

Yeah, so who are you to complain? If these people weren't doing resit after resit, then you wouldn't have your little earner on the side either.

I love the smell of hypocrisy in the morning...

zero_zero_one said...

Why am I hypocritical?