It’s time we called out infuriating invigilators

We’ve given them a free pass for too long

You always imagine invigilators as kindly, community-spirited people monitoring exam halls out of the goodness of their heart. This image shattered when I discovered they were paid. Since then, quibbles have turned into qualms, and qualms into full-blown resentment.

At the end of exam period when you’re trying to salvage your degree, the last thing you need is an invigilator filling you with rage. It’s too much.

Just this week, victims at Bournemouth University were forced to wait for two hours and watch invigilators print off the half of their exam that was missing. When the paper ran out, they were sent home, the exam rescheduled.

This is just one sorry episode of a drama running longer than any soap. It’s time to call the invigilators out.

Let’s start at the beginning. About halfway through each series of University Challenge Jeremy Paxman eschews convention and tells the over-eager quizzers, “you know the rules by now, let’s get on with it.” Instead of laboriously explaining the intricacies of exam conditions, couldn’t invigilators take some cues from cavalier pioneer Paxman and cut to the chase? By the end of university, most have staggered through to their sixth consecutive year of, “if you have any unauthorised items, including mobile phones or any kind of electronic device you must hand them in now.” We don’t need this.

They will also happily thwart your future at any minor infraction, yet brush off their phones ringing. Double standards like these and a blatant abuse of authority evoke horror when coming from Trump, so why are they overlooked for invigilators?

These self-styled guardians of the exam hall take their jobs far too seriously. It’s hard to shake the feeling that their lengthy explanations aren’t just deliberate patronising. Take a spelling-mistake ridden Economics exam sat at Cardiff University this year. The first of these errors was the indecipherable “ne10w”. How and why these digits had inserted themselves is beside the point, what matters is what the invigilator did next.

With no extra information to clarify the matter, the chief invigilator told everyone to pause for a second as he contemplated what the error could mean. Eventually he settled on the astonishing insight that it should be “new”.

This happened three times. They did not add the wasted time onto the end of the exam.

That’s not to say invigilators are dead-eyed dementors. We all know the games they like to play. Playground classics like “stand next to the ugly kid” or “sneeze loudly and repeatedly” are clearly a hoot. The problem is that this fun comes at the expense of everyone mining the recesses of their brains for the contents of long-gone lecture slides.

Some really do push the limits of sports hall chic. Ankle swingers, trouser pockets stuffed with stationery, and legit vintage fleeces might be stylish but they don’t excuse treating the aisles between seats as their personal catwalk.

Nobody can call them out, so they continue. Invigilators must know they can no longer annoy with impunity.