What it feels like to be on the brink of something either awesomely brilliant or horribly terrible

We’re crowded around the door leading to the auxiliary gym and massed around the doors leading into the main gym. Even though the bell has rung to signal us to go to class, the halls are still filled with chattering, buzzing students.

The tension settles in the air, the scent of anticipation and stress overpowering the scent of coffee, too much Axe, and hairspray.

I heard that if you dressed nicely, it would boost your confidence and you’ll do better on the test.

The vast majority of the students look like they tried their best to get a good amount of sleep the night before, but the impending reality is that their home for the next three weeks is going to be one of the three or four gyms surrendered over for May testing.

From an outsider’s perspective, the gathering of students resembles the swarming masses gathered during the Hajj.

Muhammad, founder of Islam, made the first Hajj in 630. He traveled to Medina and to Mecca with his followers in order to escape persecution.

When the clock strikes 7:31 exactly, the coordinators begin to read off numbers.

Allen, Arthur: 000822-0041! Allen, Atticus: 000822-0042! Anidruth, Ramananth: 000822-0043!

The hush that falls is like a candle being snuffed out by a forefinger and a thumb. Or a curtain being dropped abruptly on the performance. The nervous tension seems to multiply thousand-fold, and, suddenly, there is more fear than nervous energy in the students’ eyes.

Now the students are being led into the gym, swirling nervously around the similarly stressed proctors and coordinators. They file into the room and look for their seat, approximating the distance by converting letters into table numbers.

The derivative of ln(x) is x’/x. The derivative of tan(x) is sec^2(x). The integral of cot(x) is ln|sinx|+C.

Each student has their pack. Each student has pens and pencils. Some of them have erasers. Some of them have sharpeners, calculators. Woe betide the student who brings the wrong calculator.

It takes some time for the students to settle and find their seats. The chair is cold behind their legs, and the tables are pockmarked by years of graffiti. It is now 7:45. The students look with dread at the booklets on the table. They are labelled clearly with instructions not to open until the proctor’s say-so. Some of them rub nervously at the uneven texture of the tables, clearly not looking forward to having to write on such a texture.

Remember to sign your name in cursive!

Another hush falls on the nervous buzzing in the room when they catch sight of their coordinator standing in front of the rows upon rows of desks, each student facing forward. You can only imagine how imposing it seems to have to speak–or read, as the case may be, off a script–in front of 150+ students. When he starts to read, it is in the dry, bored, uninterested tone of a man who has to do this everyday for the next three weeks. The script never changes. The tension gets higher.

By signing the booklet, you promise to adhere to the standards set by the International Baccalaureate Organization. If you so choose to break these regulations, you diploma may be retracted and you will no longer be eligible to graduate…

The minute he finishes the script, a low rumbling comes from the far corner. As per tradition, a wave forms, and the students take a moment to laugh and be happy before picking up their pencils and beginning the first test of the year.

Arthur Miller and Tom Stoppard both use very specific stage directions and detailed settings to emphasize themes in their plays, Death of a Salesman and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, respectively. The characters in both plays seem to be largely unaware of their surroundings. However, while Miller incorporates his audience in his explanation of the futility of the American Dream, Stoppard emphasizes the absurd in his transitions….

It’s hard to believe that the first day of testing begins tomorrow. I want to wish everyone good luck and good concentration. We’re all going to be running the gauntlet in the depths of Hell, and it’s never a bad time to remind everyone that, in the end, a test score is just a number, and that people are not made of numbers but memories.

Try to have a good time. It’s never the end of the world as we know it.

I’m going to go cram for calculus, now.



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