The entire hall is filled with shuffling silence. A sort of desperation pushes the tips of each student's pen as it rapidly scribbles across the page. Just under a hundred different answers being written at the exact same time for the exact same question. Some will be wrong, most will be 'right'. The fear of expected failure can be smelt. We all expect it because believing otherwise can bring disappointment and knowing you are good at a subject would just be vain, right?
Our teachers have told us that we'll be fine, you've done the work, you'll do well. I don't think anyone ever believes them. Writing for 2 and a quarter hours under exam conditions you say? Surely this will only end badly.
The clock will not speed up nor slow down during this experience but despite this I still manage to look up as if I have a twitch every five minutes. It's okay, I tell myself, I'm on schedule. Thinking isn't really necessary during the exam, only reading and writing. There is no time in between to ponder what will be for tea or what's on telly tonight. All my brain can focus on is whether the headline in this article uses a metaphor or not.
Metaphor. Simile. Pun. Alliteration. Emotive. Persuasive. Informative.
It's as if I've been programmed to think only these things until I have finished writing and only then. Literally nothing else can enter my mind unless it goes along the lines of a one person conversation such as, "Oh my god this is taking forever I'm never going to finish and then I'll fail this exam and then all my exams and then all my GCSEs and then I'll just have to never get a job." "Mollie?" "Yes?" "Shut up."
And then the writing commences immediately after.
What I never anticipate, however, is the waiting that comes from finishing an exam 35 minutes before its actual end. When you're not tired enough to fall asleep during those empty minutes, time suddenly starts to go very, very slowly. The thoughts you held back during the writing come back randomly in a strange order as your mind is strangled by boredom.
These thoughts are not the miraculous realisation of why man kind exists, or why we fall in love, or how to travel through time. No, these are the most trivial thoughts one might experience in their life time. I guess it's the sudden contrast from hard concentration to a short void of nothingness that creates a less than inspiring string of daydream.
The shuffling silence is no longer full of nervous energy, despite probably still being quite true. The desperation that once belonged to you has faded. Now you have done the work. The exam is done. You've done what you've been asked and now you can wait for months for the dreaded result.
I wouldn't say an exam was an emotional roller coaster, rather a simple plane journey with a bit of turbulence at the start.