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This post is the product of an incredulous couple of days, and my surreal experiences with the Italian exam system.

Anyone who attends an English university (I imagine, this can’t just be Exeter can it?) will know the strictness of exam period. They’ll remember the overly-long emails detailing all the things you are and aren’t allowed to take into the exam hall. The confirmation of what date, time and place the exam would be held sent weeks if not months in advance. The head invigilator who takes to the microphone before the exam starts to reiterate once again what academic misconduct is, to outline the whole ‘take your yellow slip to the back of the hall where you’ll undergo a full body search before being accompanied to the toilet’/’no leaving your seat in the last 30 minutes of the exam under threat of expulsion’, and to scare monger all those poor students who forgot to take their electronic device out of their pocket before entering. They’ll be well acquainted with the team of ever present (not quite stern enough to be head invigilator) invigilators who stroll around for hours on end. And they’ll remember not all too fondly the invariable appearance of one invigilator who decides not just to wear high heels, but to repeatedly click or clack down their aisle throughout the duration of their exam.

Courtesy of exeter.ac.uk

As far as exam distractions go in Italy, this would be the least of my problems. I’ve only done two exams so far, and they’ve left me pretty bewildered and a more than a little uneasy about the 3 left to come. First of all there’s the lax start/end time. My teachers today carried on their conversation with a third teacher friend while we all sat around and watched 9:30 come and go. People got up and left throughout the course of the exam, and had a good old chat with the teachers as they turned their papers in. I almost felt pressure to leave, after watching everyone filter out and being last one left in the class room at 11.10, even though I still had a good 20 minutes left. The seating arrangements are, well, non-existent. There was no individual table with my candidate number on it. I deduced from the haphazard arrangement of everyone else when I arrived that it was a do-as-you-please situation. So I did. I choose myself a very nice seat too, with a window and a view. Someone’s phone went off in the exam and the teachers didn’t even look up from their laptops.The girl just took the phone out of her pocket and turned it off. That shocked me out of concentration for a good 5 minutes. I could go on, but I think you get the point. The Italian laid back nature extends even into what I’ve been led to believe is one of the most sacred and rigid academic ceremonies.

I’m very confused by the whole thing. On one hand I can’t help but laugh whenever the head invigilator takes to the stage to read his overly pompous and sincere speech, but on the other I feel I know where I stand when it comes to exams in England. I know what’s expected of me and I do it. But is that always a good thing? The Italian system has taught me that, even though it can be a right pain to get things done sometimes, it’s okay to chill. Not everything needs to be taken so seriously. Even exams…? I wish I could go round and see how other countries do it; there has to be a happy medium somewhere.

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