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Not all heroes wear capes – some wear tabards. I trust I am not alone in singing the praises of the invigilators that accompany us in the exam halls, the watchful knights of our exam halls that truly shine twice a year when students all around the world emit rays of extreme stress.

The glory of invigilation is most strongly demonstrated by the head invigilator, usually named Sheila. As we quake in our squeaky chairs, Sheila takes centre stage. She grasps the microphone and in that beautiful moment Sheila isn’t just an invigilator, she is an artist. Sheila’s voice bounds across the exam hall, she knows her lines well, and delivers each line with the sharpness of a blade: this is Sheila’s moment and we are entranced. Below Sheila in the invigilator power structure, are the “invigilator babes”, or in less censored terms: the rebels. These are those that work against the power of Big Brother with small acts of cheeky kindness. These rebels are those with whom you steal a sneaky smile and an unspoken wish of good luck passes between you.

I wonder whether Sheila really yearns for a mobile to go off

There’s something effortlessly comforting about their cardigans and the way they silently weave a web between rows of students. The most absurd thing is that their main duty is identity confirmation, as if anyone is insane enough to be in this torture chamber voluntarily? I wonder whether Sheila really yearns for a mobile to go off. I recall one incident when the chimes of doom rang from one poor soul’s bag in an exam last year. A look of pure fear tinged exhilaration took possession of one brave invigilator’s face.

I can only assume the university source the exam invigilators from MI6, due to the secret-servant swiftness with which they flung the shameful bag out of the hall. Despite the secret service being an acceptable place to source Exeter’s fluorescent tabard-squad, it would be more appropriate to bring in the Wimbledon Tennis ball gang to aid them in their training for the 2018 tournament. When we need extra sheets of paper to write on, we need extra sheets now!

Sheila shot me a look as if I had suggested shaving her cat and making the fur into bean bags

During my final A-level exam, I once spent two agonising minutes waiting for an exam invigilator to source extra paper. With each dawdling plod of Sheila’s plimsolls, my chances for exam glory were at risk of being swatted down! I asked Sheila if I was allowed extra time for this delay; Sheila shot me a look as if I had suggested shaving her cat and making the fur into bean bags.

Exam invigilators represent law and rules, so perhaps that is why we dread them so much. Maybe we joke about their individual quirks and characteristics because we are trying to bring these demigods down to our mortal level through comedy. Nevertheless, there is something enchanting about their presence because they become your mini-mascots for the exam, observing our pain and in turn, almost sharing in it. When all is said and done, although invigilators can be a bit prickly round the edges like a cactus, they are a respected life form in the desolate desert that is the exam hall.

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