Test Takers Who Test Your Patience


Photo: Creative Commons

Charley Levine, Staff Writer

As students, we all know the feeling. The quick pace of your breath before a formidable exam, the rapid beat of your heart as the papers are handed out, but most importantly, the frustration that builds the moment an infamous pencil beat breaks the classroom silence as the student behind you begins tapping their eraser lightly against the rim of their desk. Perhaps you’re familiar with the notorious shoe tapping from the distant corner of the class. Maybe the slamming of pencils, the creak of the wooden door opening and closing, or if not these, you will undoubtedly be able to recount the various annoyances I will later enumerate. 

As a student myself, through my years brimming with tests and quizzes, I have first-hand been able to speculate on and classify many common behaviors among my peers which I have initially found often humorous, but in retrospect, most infuriating. This common ecosystem I have observed has proved a prevalent environment in my years at school, hence why I now write of my observations. I am sure you will find my gathered observations quite relatable as I journal the test-taking behaviors I have encountered.

First to mention, The Musician, my favorite of all, or in this case, the most aggravating of them all. Whether this student sits directly next to you or across the room, the monotonous beat of their pencil or even shoe tapping is sure to capture not only your attention, but the attention of the rest of the class, and maybe even the attention of the lingering friend group chatting down the hall. Most commonly, The Musician is identified mid-problem, just as you’re about to hone in on the puzzling question before you. As you sit there, thinking hard, the light rhythm grows louder, burning not just your ears, but your patience. Irritated, you find the source of the distracting rhythm. So now you sit there, unable to focus, staring at The Musician’s foot, and all you can do is pray that this torture will come to an end before the period does.

Next to be mentioned is the notorious cheater who we will refer to as The Deceiver. He scans the classroom, attempting to lay low as he peers over his neighbor’s shoulder in order to catch sight of their scribbled-down answers. Desperate, he slyly pulls up his sleeve to find his arm lined with Sharpied answers, revealing a key. The mischievous student stands up from his desk, suspiciously strolling over to the tissue box while simultaneously making eye contact with every other student’s test. As he blows his dry nose into a tissue, his eyes take snapshots of the visible scantrons, attempting to memorize them. Returning back to his seat, he replays the answers in his head, copying down what he remembers. That afternoon, when the teacher looks over his students’ work, he finds himself quite confused. Suddenly, the kid who pays almost no attention in class has scored the highest of all his students. Interesting. How could this be?

Next in line, we have The Pencil Slammer, the biggest attention seeker of them all. This student begins the exam in their head before the papers are even handed out. As soon, and I mean the very second, as the test lands on their desk, the student begins scribbling down answers as fast as they possibly can. Rushing through the exam, The Pencil Slammer finishes within minutes. This however, is not where the problem lies. It is the incredibly loud and obnoxious slam of the student’s pencil that diverts the attention of all who sit in the classroom, causing a mutual head turn in order to find the source of the slam. Now, many may ask, why would one do such a thing? Well this is a great question I wish I had the answer to. From my experiences, the only possible rationale I can provide is that The Pencil Slammer solely slams their pencil in order to make it known to the rest of the class that they are the quickest, greatest, and smartest person present.

Amidst the pandemic, this type of test-taker has been most highlighted by the extra COVID-concerned students at school––The Sick One. To break the classroom silence, a dog-like bark is exerted from this student’s mouth while another aggressively blows their runny snot into a tissue in the back. Throughout the period, the disgusting and repulsive cacophony becomes almost nauseating, and students can’t help but look up and pull their masks a bit farther up their noses. While students now sit, worried and anxious, they find themselves stuck in a state of confusion. Either the sick student forgot to fill out their symptom tracker that morning, or perhaps they misclicked when completing it.

The Anything But Test Taker may be the most famous of them all, especially to teachers. Even amidst the most important exams, this student, for some reason, claims “it is an emergency” in an attempt to escape the classroom. Following the student’s conversation with the teacher comes the infamous creak of the classroom door as it opens and closes, instantly drawing the attention of the entire class. As their footsteps echo across the linoleum floor as they calmly stroll off into the distant hallways, students stare, losing minutes of their precious test time.

Now we all know this last type of test taker––The Perfectionist. This student is perhaps the most meticulous person you will meet while also the most anxious and doubtful. After finishing her test, she will go over her answers not once, not twice, not three times, but four and oftentimes more. As she sits, honed in on her test paper, her sweaty hands shake as she writes. She glares back and forth from her test to her scantron, ensuring that the two sets of answers exactly match. This student will sit checking over her work until the very second the teacher demands she must turn it in. However, it is not until the teacher pries the paper from her arms that she is given no choice but to finally submit her work.

Now that I’ve concluded enumerating my observations, I will turn the focus of my journaling to you, the reader. As you’ve recounted your not so fond test taking days, I am in fact certain that you have found some sort of relation or connection to some of the mentioned characters as well as their defining traits. With that being said, it is time for you to identify which type of test taker you are. Yes, it may seem a bit weird or uncomfortable to categorize yourself as a character that your entire class finds nothing other than an annoying distraction, but all I can say is to be honest. Own up to your sins. Maybe you’re The Perfectionist like I am, someone who is constantly worried about misclicking an answer or filling in the wrong multiple choice box. Maybe you’re the Anything But Test Taker, always finding cunning ways to escape your classroom. Perhaps you’re The Deceiver, a nuisance to all your teachers and peers. What about The Sick One or The Musician? You could even be The Pencil Slammer, although I would certainly hope not. Whether your name falls under one specific category or you’re a mix of a few, every one of you has stepped into these characters’ shoes for a moment, although likely more. So who are you? You decide. Now the next time you sit in class on the day of an exam and hear a pencil tap beat begin in the silence, just remember you are not alone. Chuckle under your breath at the relatable nuisance and remember my wise words. You just have to deal with it. We all suffer from it too.