The Examiner-Student Asymmetry

As far as its impact on your future is concerned, the exam period represents one of the most critical points in your life. Just a single grade has the power to determine your place at university or the trajectory of your entire career.

But even your best efforts cannot escape the fact that somebody else has the last piece of control over your score.

Unfortunately, your fate is in the hands of a person (or machine) who cares far less about the outcome of your exams than you do. The score you receive will not affect the examiner’s life in any way. It will certainly affect yours. This is the Examiner-Student Asymmetry.

To the examiner, you are merely “Entrant 91732F”. Yours is one of hundreds of boring exams waiting to be assessed. Each will receive minutes of attention, for which the examiner will be paid at most a small amount.

The official stance is that strict measures are put in place to ensure fair treatment of all exam entries. Don’t fall for it. Your exams are not safe from mis-assessment. As with any other activity involving people, mistakes will be made. Nobody has the time or incentive to figure out precisely what you have tried to express in your answers.

Don’t hate examiners for this. It’s simply human nature. You and I would be exactly the same.

You’ll just have to accept that an incredibly important set of decisions for your future will likely be made by a rather uninterested third party to whom you are totally anonymous.

What can you do about it?

You can make the examiner’s experience as easy as possible. This means playing by their rules, not yours. We’ll talk about exactly how to do this later.