Testing, Testing: Final Exams in India by Gabe Weinstein

Gabe Weinstein is a senior at Ohio University, majoring in Journalism. Gabe is currently studying business at a local college in Mumbai, India.

“Gabriel, come here. Sit here. This is Roshini. She is very cooperative when it comes to cheating. She is the topper [the person with the highest marks] of the class.” This was my classmate Tarun’s advice minutes before the start of my first final exam.

Welcome to final exam season here in India, where exam schedules are announced a week before exams start and you risk being thrown out if you do not wear a tie to a test.  To make things more interesting and stressful, about half of the students at my school are taking eight exams while others are gearing up for 14 tests  over the next two weeks. Let the fun begin.

I entered the chaotic whirlpool of exam season to a familiar scene yesterday. My classmates were huddled together in a room on the first floor, getting in some last minute studying before heading to our exam room on the third floor.

Students cram in last-minute studying before a marketing exam.

The head proctor greeted test takers with a scowl and a snooty reminder to drop our book bags at the door. She guided students to their assigned seats for the test. The exam was supposed to start at 2:30, but the head proctor refused to start the exam over the 58 voices singing Happy Birthday to my classmate Akshat and the spit fire chants of “BD, BD, BD” that followed. (BD stands for Business Design, a specialized MBA course offered at my college.) She finally passed out the test after 10 minutes, hissing at students to be quiet through her clenched teeth.

Inspired by our professor’s words of “good luck. god be with u [sic],” printed on the exam paper, we spent the next two hours explaining why China attracts more foreign investment than India and if the Indian government pampers exporters. The room was quiet for most of the two hour test, except when the head proctor briefly left. Then muffles, whispers and papers fluttered between neighbors in a hurried rush to complete transactions before the unforgiving proctor returned.

Students chat before a marketing exam. The proctors, the woman in a purple dress and man in a turquoise shirt at the front of the room, discuss exam procedures before handing out exams.

My second exam featured another crotchety proctor. She stalked the room the same way an assistant principal at my high school roamed the dance floor during Homecoming, itching to break up couples dancing dirty. The twinkle of destruction blazed in her eyes as she sauntered up the aisle, hoping to nab a suspected cheater. She seemed to enjoy interrogating male students as to why they had forgotten to wear ties, which students must wear final exams. The proctor was so infatuated with the tie rule, that she made several students go retrieve their ties from their backpacks, even if they were 30 minutes into working on their exam.

Exams here remind me more of the way final exams were conducted at my high school than at OU. Just like high school, all students take their exams for a particular subject, say marketing, at the same time and a bell signals the conclusion of the exam. Unlike OU, where every student has a unique final exam schedule, every student has the same exam schedule. That is because, for the most part, students take classes as a batch and are assigned their classes, instead of being able to pick their own personal schedule. This stems from the highly specialized nature of my college and the fact that there are only 600 students in the entire school.

Once the exams ended I was again greeted with a familiar sight. Students frantically comparing answers and teachers joking with students about their exams. A sight you regularly see 8,000 miles away in Athens, Ohio.


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