Down The Rabbit-Hole: Sitting an Exam

You find yourself increasingly bored as you revise, yet this revision is leading to something. Exams. And when you’re standing outside the exam hall that boredom turns to utter, utter fear. Your stomach swirls. The doors open. You walk in the hall. And you fall down the rabbit-hole…By Thomas Stewart.

Wonderland is not what you expected. This Wonderland is full of desks and chairs – where, you ask, are the teacups and roses? You are Alice so where’s the bottle saying ‘Drink Me’? But as you walk towards your desk and sit down it’s all clear. This bottle is a pen, resting at your desk; it’s a piece of paper with a number and your name on it. You sit and the Red Queen strolls in front of you, her card men don’t paint the roses red, they hand out exams and you sit silently, hushed forever more. Panic. Worry. They all set in. Have you revised enough? What lies inside the exam? What happens when you drink the liquid?

Then, “Off with their heads!” and the hall falls into a robotic trance of opening exams, pens in hand and they begin writing. You, however, are frozen. You have yet to drink the drink – the pen – so you stare at the exam and worry and think. The room is a world you’re not familiar with, a labyrinth of disjointed creatures. Ahead, the White Rabbit checking the clock and scribbling down answers. Beside you, the Mad Hatter, crazily scribbling, flooding pages and pages with answers. Smoke wraps around you – the sound of it – and the Caterpillar is behind, answering all of the questions.

“Who are you?” You’re somebody who hasn’t started the exam yet, somebody who is panicking about all of the things that you shouldn’t be panicking about. It’s this room, this Wonderland. It’s the Cheshire Cat a few seats ahead and you find yourself close to forming a pool of tears. The Red Queen walks around, hands behind her back. Her minions do the same.

But you stop. You breathe. The Jabberwocky hasn’t arrived yet and the people around you are in the same boat. They’re just as mad as you. You see they have started questions but you haven’t even opened the page yet. So you do and read and you know the answer to number one instantly. You realise that you’ve done your homework, that falling into this rabbit-hole is part of the story and you’re prepared. You realise that you spent a lot of time sitting by the tree, reading and revising. Suddenly, almost fervently, you find yourself blending in to your surroundings; you’re just another mad person scribbling away. You join the clan of madness and fantasy.

Humpty Dumpty a few rows ahead, Tweedledee and Tweedledum not so far away. They’re all part of this world you are now in and your focus is the exam. To write, is to fight away The Red Queen and the Jabbberwocky. To finish, complete, relax and pass, is to leave Wonderland forever. It is wondrous, yes, but only for a certain amount of time.

Then, the clock ticks, the Queen – “Off with their heads!” – and the card men steal your tarts – your exams – from you. And as you leave the exam hall, leave Wonderland, you all go over the questions. “What did you answer to two?” “Oh that’s not what I put.” And worry sets in all over again. A shared worry among you all now. And The Mad Hatter turns to you and asks, “Have I gone mad?” And you say, “I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”

Image: Cheshire Cat/Only Pencil/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


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