Thursday, 29 November 2012

Testing times

It's that time of year again: time to put metaphorical pen to non-existent paper and compose the end of academic year exams. I'm sure that, in a civilised world, there should be no need for exams to exist, but they do and there's little I can really do to change that - still, as I sit here attempting to make the questions legible, comprehensible and (hopefully) a gift to anyone with knowledge, interest and a questioning mind, I am constantly reminded that nature and context of the exam itself can occasionally generate a degree of brain-freeze in which simple terminology gets mixed up and names become garbled and confused. In most cases, de-garblification is a relatively simple process for the examiner, but sometimes, just sometimes, the accidental mis-spelling or unintentional replacement of a particular word, term or name can provide a momentary flash of relief for the marker, reminding them that the world is, after all, a rather lovely place. 

In one memorable past exam answer, since you ask, an examinee, successfully managed to confuse the ancient name of Colchester (Camulodunum) with the leader of British resistance against the Roman invasion of Britain in AD 43 (Caratacus) in order to tell me that:

Having defeated the army of Camulodunum, the emperor Claudius entered Caratacus in triumph

as well he might have done. Sadly this particular eye watering scene is not otherwise recorded in the contemporary Roman sources nor in any more recent recreation or reconstruction drawing (although maybe it should). 

Another favourite, and one that still has the capacity to generate fits of schoolboy sniggering (when I try to visualise it), was the examinee who unfortunately forgot that the Latin term for 'shield' is Scutum, resulting in the impressive statement that:

The Roman soldier charged into battle protected only by his scrotum

They were a tough lot those Romans....

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