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Last Updated: Monday, 24 May, 2004, 14:12 GMT 15:12 UK
Teachers reveal exam hall games
Exam hall
Some teachers "run races" around the exam hall
Teachers have revealed some of the tricks they use to avoid boredom during exams - including pencil-sharpener races and spotting the ugliest pupil in the hall.

The comments, posted on the Times Educational Supplement's web chatroom, also show invigilators playing slowed-down games of "chicken" in the aisles between desks and "running" races around the room.

One more cerebral teacher even spent time translating exam regulations into foreign languages.

Another counted the number of bricks in a wall.

'Frowned upon'

Making figures out of Blu-tack was recommended by one invigilator.

A crueller game required colleagues to "count the students wearing specs", divide this by the number of redheads in the hall and add the number of coughs in a 10-minute period.

If the number of children with visible [spelt "visable" by the teacher] nits is subtracted, the answer is said always to be four.

A spokesman for the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, which regulates exams in England, said it frowned on such behaviour.

"Teachers are supposed to be focusing on the behaviour of pupils and what's going on in the exam room," he said.

We asked for your comments on exam invigilators' antics. Here are some of your responses.

Too many things to mention. Numerous counting games - number of boys / girls / blondes / glasses / left handed, etc etc, The list is endless. I can remember a colleague who would stand at one end of the hall and we would have to copy his movements from the other end. Another member of staff would practise her belly dancing routines. Or there was always 'the race' to be first to get to a student who has hand their hand up. You have to do something to lessen the excruciating boredom of invigilation.
Mark J, Birmingham, England

I think that the teachers should be given a break. I'm taking exams this time round and I feel they should be allowed to have fun during the hours we spend writing away.
John Holland, Rawtenstall, E Lancs

Quite obviously the spokesman for the Qualification and Curriculum Authority has never had to invigilate an examination if the authority is said to frown on behaviour simply intended to keep the invigilator sane and awake. But then when do they ever offer sense?
Alan, Cheshire

I don't see any problems with teachers counting bricks, kids or anything else. Most exam rooms are hot and stuffy and I'm sure the QCA would rather that teachers were staying awake. Without such activities to keep the brain awake, the dreaded head-bob micro sleep may mean that teachers miss exam no-nos such as talking or worse.
Stuart, Ipswich

After 27 years of invigilation, I think I am expert at dealing with the mind-numbing boredom. These exercises have included calculating the length of the floorboards used to floor the exam room; calculating the height of a column that could be made from the bricks making the room; counting the shuttlecocks in the sports hall lights; and calculating the distance they travelled to become trapped. The list is endless and, as another correspondent has said, it is better to do "mind gym" exercises than to fall asleep.
Philip, Birmingham, England

I wish I was able to take the time in exams doing silly things, but instead I'm taking them. It must be boring for the teachers, I'll admit, but I'd rather be doing that than taking the exams, which I am.
Sam.B, England

I'm taking my tests at GCSE level this year, and I'm happy to have the teacher count how many times I cough or the number of redheads in the room, as long as they don't bother all of us. Give them a break - they're probably more bored than we are, as at least we have something to be doing for the hour and a half we're stuck in there.
Elliot Hurst, Ramsbottom, Lancashire, England

The QCA spokesman should realise that any teacher who has been in the classroom for a few years can spot a pupil doing something they shouldn't whilst not even facing the class. So the snooty comments only further the notion that the QCA has no knowledge of what goes on in school classrooms. Competitions to spot the smelliest pupil, best spelling mistake, or the great "I-spy someone wearing odd socks" were all favourites in the days when I was a teacher in England. Invigilation, though essential, is so mind-numbingly boring you have to create survival strategies. Which other occupation sees salaried professionals standing not using their brains all day - apart from QCA, that is?
Mike Gilfillan, UK and USA

I sometimes count the number of shuttlecocks caught in the steel rafters of the gym in which the examinations are held. At other times, I see if I can do the papers that are set - in my head. When the exam "season" is almost over, I read the graffiti on the empty desks.
Gill Chesney-Green, Gotham, Notts, UK

When we were sitting exams, we used to pick a teacher and put our hands up for more paper, whether we needed it or not, when said teacher was near. The other teachers would get annoyed, as that teacher leapt ahead in the race. We would also see how long we could keep a teacher on their feet for without them being able to sit down. Students get bored in exams too.
Martin, England

I don't mind what the teachers do when I'm taking my A-levels this year, as long as they don't wear shoes that make lots of noise on the wooden floor of our exam room. That is the most off-putting thing when you're trying to cram everything in.
Sophie, London

Having sat my first second year exam yesterday, I remain as outraged with invigilators as I was last year. I find them all to be either far too keen on their own voice, transforming "There are 30 minutes remaining" into "Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to draw your attention to the clock. It has been gradually ticking down and as such, only 30 whole minutes remain in this examination. After those 30 minutes have expired, I shall ask you to stop writing, etc etc". They just cannot speak English properly. There is nothing more off-putting than a poor invigilator. Yes, play your games, but don't put us off.
CF, Cambridge

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