Evening, comrades.

So, this morning I had the joy of completing the oral component of my VCE Chinese Unit 3/4 examination. I thought it was a rather interesting experience, so I’ll share it with you, although I realize the chances of anyone caring are low.

Upon arrival at the Northern Metropolitan Conference Centre in Coburg (ha), I immediately noticed that things were a bit strange. You know how they usually try to make it as comfortable and stress-free for the poor examinees, especially during an oral examination? Well, for my examination, they had the area sealed off by some big-ass fences and a rather mean-looking security guard standing beside a closed gate to the only entrance, who refused to let in any examinees until 10 minutes prior to their designated exam time. Beyond the gate was lifeless, with no signs of people or movement, only large, grey, desolate buildings. A large sign next to him read in big, bold letters: “No parents beyond this point”. A group of anxious and depressed looking examinees and parents stood around the gate, awaiting their moment upon which they will be subjected to the horrors behind the fence. As I joined the cold, huddling group, I noticed that this sight alone would have been enough to strike fear into the hearts of any examinee.

And then, my time came. The guard signalled to me, and opened the gate, ushering me in and instructing me to follow a path marked by signs that read “VCE Chinese oral examination”, or something along those lines. Expecting the exam to have taken place in the large grey building directly behind the guard, I was mistaken, instead finding myself walking along a long, lonely and silent winding path that lead somewhere into the labyrinth of buildings.

After being guided into some building by the signs, a few white people ushered us around a rather unnecessarily complex registration and initiation system and took us to a different building, and we were instructed to be silent as we approached the intimidating glass exam rooms from a corridor. They sat one of us down beside the door of each room, and let us sit there and melt under the intense anxiety most of us experienced as we waited for the examiners to open the door. It almost felt as if we were preparing to be executed, that waiting for us inside each of those rooms was an electric chair or a firing squad. I sat there and the doors began opening, and I watched as my comrades were lured into those wretched rooms, one by one. A few minutes later I was the only one left, and my time soon also came.

Nothing of interest happened during my actual exam. I didn’t do particularly well but it wasn’t a total disaster either, and my examiners were reasonably nice and engagable, not icy, intimidating and morale-crushing like the examiners I endured for my first practice oral examination a couple of weeks earlier. So after going through a long, spirit-breaking process of actually reaching the examination room, the actual exam was something of an anti-climax, being fairly straightforward and lasting for what felt like a minute.

So much for a “relaxing environment”. They had subjected us to a most stressful and even nausea-inducing environment in the lead-up to a hugely important examination. Fortunately I wasn’t overly affected by it, having myself been in many nerve-racking situations that have, to a degree, trained me to effectively deal with pre-examination or pre-concert anxiety. But I could easily imagine a more emotional person cracking under the huge pressure and anxiety that one felt as he walked along that horrible path, or walking into the exam room shaken and stammering from the build-up of nerves that the pre-examination process created.

The moral of this story? Nothing, really. I just felt like writing a blog. But there is warning in this for those of you who are preparing for your Chinese 3/4 oral examinations in the coming weeks: be prepared to be subjected to some mind-fuckery just before your exam.

– Ruob.

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