Keep calm and carry on
MAY 5 — It’s that time of year again when the laptops and books come out and the library is full of people walking around like they are cars looking for a parking space in Gardens Mid Valley.
Somehow the make-up and swanky nice clothes and matching shoes have all been switched to shapeless hoodies, track bottoms and trainers. Everyone’s got a huge bottle or thermos full of water, Coca-cola or coffee, Red Bull sales are hitting the roof, and nobody’s eating properly — who has time to cook!?
Final exam season has hit England, with the terrifying prospect of having to revise every single thing you have been taught this entire year for one sly booklet of paper, that mocks you with its strangely worded questions and the fact that you’re sitting next to that guy in class who will finish the paper in half an hour and sits back looking smug for the remaining two.
It is incredible how the word “exam” in any language can inspire a universal fear against this common enemy, no matter what culture and country you come from. It is also incredible how this fear has survived history, from 605AD in ancient China all the way to 2012 in any examination centre.
And what is the root of this fear, is it in the humiliation of not doing well, or the fear of losing something if you fail? Or is it because examinations have now been used as a substitute method for determining who are the fittest in the human population, and what we have is residual fear of losing our lives if we were found to be less than fit?
We say we are more civilised than animals because instead of killing the weakest in the pack, the stronger ones help keep them alive. We have designed a society for ourselves that always allows for one to contribute, no matter what talents one has.
We are proud of what we’ve managed to achieve by creating examination systems to divide the strong and the weak, and turning what used to be the fight to survive into a multimillion dollar sports entertainment industry. We have also managed to make exams that test almost any parameter we could care to accomplish so we can have lots of winners in lots of different fields.
But maybe the underlying fear is still there, and when you think about exams you are not only frightened that you might not know the answers, or that you might fail, but your subconscious and the caveman instincts that you have retained are also frightened that your survival will not be ensured if you are certified to be weak.
When all’s said and done, I suppose as students we should all be grateful that our biggest enemy is a booklet of paper, rather than a bloodthirsty savage classmate whose aim of the hour is to tear your head off. Isn’t this the point where you heave a huge sigh of relief?
What we must all retain in our minds throughout this difficult period is common sense. Human beings were not evolutionarily built to sit exams. We were built to fight each other to the death to survive another day if we had to.
Even though our nails are less long now, and we have mostly given up the practice of wielding weapons at all the people around us, the rough concept remains. So starving yourself, not drinking enough water, and hyping up your anxiety levels is unlikely to win you a battle. The winners are the ones who trained hard, rested enough and kept themselves healthy enough to go into the fight.
So this exam period, do keep calm and carry on. Good luck to all!
* The views expressed here are the personal views of the columnist.