Entering an exam room can be intimidating. Where in this sea of chairs and desks would prove the best for productivity? Which seat will yield the best exam results? One of the most important factors in a seat’s potential is its neighbouring student. The people around you can have an enormous effect on your ability to focus, so it’s important to avoid what I call the five worst exam neighbours:
1. The Sniffler
Because students are stressed and abandon basic hygiene in December, colds and flus sweep through exam season. That means that you might sit next to a sniffler—someone who will spend the next three hours alternating between sniffling, coughing, blowing into a tissue, and—if you’re especially lucky—vomiting. You’ll want to put some extra space between you and this noisy peer. Early indicators: someone putting a tissue box on the corner of the desk.
2. The Sloth
You likely won’t recognize these students from class, mostly because they’ve rarely been to a lecture. The sloths will sit the exam but take the first 10 minutes to sharpen a pencil. After dedicating some time toward counting ceiling tiles, the sloths might take a well-deserved nap. An hour into the exam, you might see them write something—probably their names. Though not particularly loud, you will be distracted with disbelief, wondering how on earth these people made it this far. Early indicators: someone wearing sweatpants and asking, “which one is the professor?”
3. The Eraser
Indecision reaches unprecedented levels with The Eraser. Convinced that they could word a question differently—or suspcious that the combination of “A, A, C, C” on a multiple choice test can’t possibly be right—these students will spend chunks of exam time erasing old answers. Few sounds are as irritating. You also won’t want to sit next to erasers for fear of internalizing their doubt and freaking out. Early indicators: someone with two coffees and covered in eraser bits.
4. The Rock Star
When I say “Rock Star,” I don’t mean those who enter the exam with confidence. The Rock Stars are students who think they’re putting on a impromptu concert. They’ll drum their pens, tap their feet, rhythmically click their pens, and—if particularly inspired—hum tunes. Although the musical talent of these students might otherwise be appreciated, the fact that they’re tapping to “We Will Rock You” will probably not rock you during an exam. Early indicators: an AC/DC shirt and a bad haircut.
5. The Mastermind
Everybody wants to be a mastermind, but very few are. Their pens don’t leave the paper until the full three hours are up. While the masterminds aren’t directly distracting, they will fill you with insecurity as you wonder how they just filled four pages to answer a question asking for a definition. You may end up wasting precious exam time dumbstruck by their speed, suddenly contemplating the possible existence of human-robot cyborgs. Early indicator: someone who isn’t blinking.
Kevin Hurren is opinions editor of Western’s Gazette. Follow him on Twitter @KevinAtGazette