Ask most students to describe in one word the experience of sitting exams and ‘boring’ would be the response a fair wedge of the time. There’s not much fun to be had sitting in silence for and hour or two in a stuffy hall where the only sounds are the furious scribbling of nibs, the occasional cough and the booming tick-tock of the exam hall clock. Less so when your future depends on it.  But let’s flip it for a second – how boring must it be for a teacher invigilating the exams? At least students have something to be getting on with; those employed to watch over proceedings have little more to do than twiddle their thumbs.

Or do they? Teachers have revealed some of the tricks they employ to stave off their own boredom during exams, and some of the games they play are pretty close to the bone.

Here’s a list of the top ten most bizarre (and often cruel) games invigilators play, taken from comments posted on the Times Educational Supplement‘s forum and from various news articles.

Chicken: Slowed-down version of the kids’ game played on bikes, chicken involves two teachers walking down the same aisle from opposite ends. The first one to bottle it and turn off before a fateful collision is our afeared feathered friend.

Counting: Look out for those teachers who seem to be concentrating extremely hard – on everything apart form the students. Chances are they’re counting; counting bricks in a wall, the number of coughs, shuttlecocks stuck in the lights, the amount of boys/girls – the list is endless.

Arty-farty: Making figures out of Blu-tack or creating structures out of stationary, the more creative teachers make work for idle hands.

The race: Be it doing a lap of the hall, handing out question papers or responding to requests the quickest it’s kudos to the winner – on your marks!

Pacman: Exam hall based version of the popular video game, teachers (starting at opposite ends of the hall) take it in turns to take steps towards each other. One is the chaser, the other the chased and it is the chaser’s job to intercept their prey. Hours of fun.

Clever clogs: More cerebral teachers have been known to spend their time translating exam regulations into foreign languages, calculating the height of a column that could be made from all the bricks in the hall or calculating the amount of wood needed to floorboard the hall. Yawn, surely?!

Man in the mirror:  One teacher is nominated before the exam to be at the front of the hall; the others take their places at the back and spend the exam copying his movements. 

Ohh, nasty: One comment detailed a game where invigilators are required to count the number of students wearing glasses in the hall, divide this by the number of redheads and add the number of coughs in a 10-minute period. If the number of children with visible nits is subtracted, the answer is said always to be four. Ouch.

Stand by me: Another popular game is ‘stand by’, a game where teachers challenge each other to stand by the smelliest student, the ugliest, the one most likely to get married first, the one most likely to make the front page, the one most likely to make a million. You get the picture, there are loads.

Battleships: Similar to the above except stationery; teachers are given a piece of paper with the positions of all the desks marked out in a grid. Colleagues have to put crosses in the boxes to mark out the students with the worst hair, worst handwriting, worst breath. Harsh.

Paperboy: Fiercely contested game whereby invigilators do battle to see who can dish out the most extra paper. More canny than you think – good judgement is needed to place yourself in the right areas where hands are likely to spring up.

So next time you’re sitting am exam and you notice something fishy going on it’s probably one of these, just be wary next time the teacher stands next to you…




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