A day in the life of an O’ level student

Published: October 6, 2012

Now, fifteen minutes to go before the exam, Myra takes deep breaths to stave off the panic that threatens to engulf her. PHOTO: FILE

Myra sits in her exam centre and carefully looks at everything inside the exam room, taking in every minute detail around her. She looks for any means of entertainment, or something ─ anything ─ that would reduce this boredom. Her friend purses her lips which reveal her annoyance at Myra, too afraid to show any real emotions for fear of the invigilator.

The invigilator, a stout, stern woman moves her eyes around the room like a hawk, ever ready to catch any miserable brat hand gesturing or passing random smiles. One can’t smile, speak, or move their arms to stretch as all this would be considered malpractice. For those few moments, one feels completely trapped.

Now, fifteen minutes to go before the exam, Myra takes deep breaths to stave off the panic that threatens to engulf her.

You are going to be okay! Be strong.

She gives herself the pep talk and then starts to mutter all the duas (prayers) she had learnt as a child; God is the only hope left.

That’s when Myra hears the rules being announced on the microphone; the monotonous voice that indicates that there are only a few minutes to go before the exam.

“Keep your ID card and Statement of Entry on the top right hand side of your desk so that the invigilating staff can see it properly during the ID check.”

The words were heard so many times by Myra that she decides to close her eyes and day dream of the things she would do in her hours of freedom following the exam.

Myra looks up at the clock beside the big red thumbs up sign, indicating good luck. Yes, sure, as if that thumbs up sign is going to actually make her feel any better! She counts the seconds as the clock hand ticks by excruciatingly slow, making each second last longer.

As the speakers reverberate, Myra sets her pen to work and starts her paper at an alarmingly fast rate. She racks her brain for answers, pushing numbers frantically on to the calculator.

You know how sometimes there is a certain song that simply refuses to vacate your mind? That’s what Myra is going through as she approaches the trickiest problem. Talk about timing!

Hey, I just met you and this is crazy but here’s my number.

Focus, Myra, focus!

…So call me maybe?

Shut up, just shut up!

Would Atrium still be screening Hunger Games? I so desperately want to watch it.

“Please, please stop and focus on the question in front of you! You will have all the time in the world to watch any movie you want,” Myra reasons with herself in her mind.

Myra tries to recall the things she studied in the morning. She lauds herself silently for every right answer she remembers to the multiple choice questions (MCQs) on the paper.

The hour goes by quicker than anticipated, and before Myra knows it, the dreaded speaker reverberates again and instructs everyone to put their pens down. The invigilator, so passive before, now threatens to cancel the paper if everyone doesn’t stop writing. Myra breathes a sigh of relief, winks at her friend and then makes her way out of the room into the open, where she has never felt lighter.

It is only then that she remembers that she only answered two of the three mandatory questions . She stops dead in her tracks. Her stomach drops to the floor and her face turns to stone.

Is the CIE's system of basing grades on just one exam fair to students?

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Javeria Khalid Petiwala

Javeria Khalid Petiwala

A student based in Karachi, an ardent debater, and a Master Chef fan, she loves writing and travelling.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Op

    nicely written..i have being through this and felt the sameRecommend

  • Rosh

    This is so relatable!Nice read. You should write more often, girl.Recommend

  • MonsieurCritique

    Would Atrium still be screening Hunger
    Games? I so desperately want to watch

    Horrible Movie, Do yourself a favor and don’t waste your time + money on it.
    Book was much much better.Recommend

  • Woah.

    The song part made me laugh out loud. The same thing happened to me when I was giving my CIE Economic paper.
    The author has captured the exact feelings a student feels when he is sitting through the paper.
    Nice work.Recommend

  • Jyuthika

    you have gained valuable insight about the topic with enough related information.Your approach to the current situation is unique and very relevant.You have captured reader’s attention, successfully relaying pertinent facts and avoiding superfluous words ..These kind of writings should be more often included here at the Blogs.Recommend

  • Farzan

    I dont get the purpose of this article. Its completely useless. No new information, its not an op-ed, its not factual, just a story of a 16 year old. WHY ET, WHYYY has this been published!!!Recommend

  • Rani

    Been there done that!Recommend

  • Ilsa

    I love the part where the song keeps popping up in your head :DRecommend

  • Ilsa

    Just because it’s entertaining. Makes sense it’s published under Poetic Licence.Recommend

  • MH

    Nobody is forcing you to read it. She has just written her view point and if you don’t like it, you are not compelled to read it.Recommend

  • Dan

    Okay, WHY do people have to wonder why a write-up is published on Tribune Blogs? It’s not the NEWS section people, that only information should be published! It’s a BLOG, where writers contribute in many different, creative and fun ways by means of debate, sharing anecdotes, etc etc. So lighten up, would you? :)Recommend

  • Yo

    Farzan apparently is a Metric student hahahaRecommend

  • Bill H

    Oh dear poor girl, a very good story well written and it held my attention right through.
    Bill H

  • rabia

    oh my god! i’m just about to appear for my o level exams for the first time, i hope this doesn’t happen to me.Recommend

  • Ayesha Ahmad

    Interesting read!Recommend

  • Anum Talat

    @ rabia:
    Goodluck girl…Recommend

  • Maria

    I hope it the thing in last para doesnt happen to anyone. But I am soo happy I am done with CIEs!Recommend

  • Aheelam

    You took me back in time woman
    EXACTLY this used to happen in all my cie’s xcept the last part when u forget to solve one Question :P
    u should write more often :)Recommend

  • Hamza

    Haha, I had the worst song attack, that too in an ACCA exam … along with the visuals, yes you’ve all heard it : Oo lala oo lala, tu hi meri fantasyRecommend

  • Maria P.

    I’m sorry, 2 out of 3 mandatory questions on an MCQ exam? I understand this article isn’t meant to be a factual recount of the experiences of one ‘Myra’, but a little more attention to the details would’ve been nice. The part about the song being stuck in the head is spot on though!Recommend

  • umer

    thanks for the doze,now i will never sleep without thinking of my upcoming o level examsRecommend

  • http://[email protected] zainab ismail

    nicely express..:) Recommend

  • Noor us Sabah

    I can relate to this. brilliant work =)Recommend

  • Zainab

    Umm, its good, but it still needs that touch of class. You’ve done a pretty good job of explaining the emotions but haven’t focused on Myra and her life, which is the theme of this blog isn’t it? This article is great and I applaud you but I didn’t feel Myra in my heart. None the less, I think you should write more.Recommend

  • Rija

    .I understand this so well……Welcome to writing and to the blogs at The Express Tribune… I look forward to more writes from you.Recommend

  • DumDee

    It was very insightful. reminded me of the song i had in my head when i was giving my olevel paper except it was an indian ganda sa song..nice use of words though!Recommend

  • Nouman Ahmed

    nothing informative in blogRecommend

  • Krishna

    If the world is a stage.You just capture an audience.With your writing brilliance.
    Congrats…well done girl..

  • Madiha Mansoor

    nycly written:) instead, i used to have goose pimples,by hearing the announcemnt 15 mnts before exam:D:DRecommend

  • Madiha Mansoor

    nycly written:) i used to get goose pimples because of fear in CIE’s..:D:DRecommend

  • Dum Dee

    Reminded me of the song I had in my mind when I was giving my Alevel paper except it was a vulgar Indian song:p
    Nice emotions though.Recommend

  • HBA

    Hmm..very Nice coz i have been through.keep it up Girl.Recommend

  • Madiha

    hahaha that was an entertaining piece of writing! it’s been five years since I last gave a CIE exam and your post made me feel like it was yesterday! still remember the statement of entry announcement shudders

    the song part is hilarious! I also had this bizarre habit of daydreaming about my wedding day during every frigging exam :/Recommend

  • pinky

    Wonderfully written….Things happened the same with me..and I totally agree with u rosh…This girl should write more often…loved the way she had jot it down…Recommend

  • Azam

    What a splendid write.you rock the forumRecommend

  • Imad Uddin

    lol I had an even crazier experience! It was an mcq paper- A Level Accounts, and for some reason or the other I was under immense time pressure. When they asked to put the pens down, I had solved all the questions on the question paper but could not color those boxes with pencil. I was just shattered. I requested the invigilators and they promised me to inform of the matter to the board…but…:) hahaRecommend

  • Girl

    After tonnes of brainstorming the bulb finally lights above your head ting, you have discovered the trick! you know the solution. Just at that blissful moment the invigilator announces, “Times up. Please put your pens down” (-__-)Recommend

  • Turbo Lover

    This O Level system is against human nature, not to mention the strain put on by the families of the student and the Harvard Syndrome of the Pakistani society. If you don’t do O Levels, most people will think that you can’t put enough effort. But in reality, that is not the case, this system is just so tyrannical. This is why I migrated to American system. Recommend

  • Mama

    she must be under severe tension and pressure.Recommend

  • Ken

    ,,I’m not sure what an “O” level student is but the exam was very stressful and probably quite difficult. This reminds me of a few exams I have taken to get state or national certification for certain jobs.

    Very natural for Myra to have to force herself to focus…that added to the tension of the piece. You held my attention. Waiting to read some of your work.Recommend

  • mariox

    very true dear ;) gone through the whole thing in my life and still more is leftRecommend

  • Samira

    It is amazing how panic can overwhelm logic, leave us guessing at things we know we knew only moment before.
    well done

  • Pamela

    *Wow. I read this earlier as well and found it intense. The worry, the angst, and the nerves. I am not one for standardized testing as it does not allow for the different ways in which people learn. You tell a gripping tale. Nice work. i look forward to more your posts.Recommend

  • Malik Smart

    Well two out of three means you were more then half way there.on a positive note.But i was never happy with even a 99% myself.A good job writing no failure here.Welcome to a better world to daydream inRecommend

  • HXN

    I got the Exact same feelings when I was giving my CIE paper. Songs in the hand… Hilarious!! Not to mention the tension. Thanks for bringing the old memories back. Recommend

  • Hello.

    O Level sucks! Especially if you have sciences.
    But good job. I find your bloc most pleasant to read among all the other blocs.Recommend

  • sss

    good one….same happened with me durring my engineering exam….:( …well potrait the anxiety and feeling of student while taking exam…really horrible..Recommend

  • Hahahahaha. Nice work!Recommend

  • Vidhya

    Excellent writing …. i really liked the way the writer tried to express the life of an O level student …Recommend

  • Basit

    So I was just browsing through the blogs and came across this..very well written. I wanna see more writing pieces from you. And very relatable tooRecommend

  • UJ

    The lamest piece of writing ever. I am unsure what are those editors at ET thinking while selecting pieces for publication.Recommend

  • Noor Us Sabah

    I’m no O Level’s student, but the undewent the very same situation during my Medical Colleges Aptitude Test, and had Don Omar’s Brazillian song stuck in my head (owing to the people at CBM who played the song over and over agian before the start of the test for KMDC… Yeah, made me paranoid). . . !Recommend

  • Literary Critic

    Your article is good but I needed more BING. to this article, you could have added what happened with her at home, her study schedule, how hectic her life was in those days. You gave me her examination visual but that was no different that what happens in every exam. Your article is good, you should keep writing. I see great potential in you.
    Ciao =D, Literary Critic.Recommend


    This was one of the best articles I have come across in a long time ….The writer herself being a young student ..has well described the feelings that an O level goes through …It shows the potential you are exhibiting and your sincerity in writing..Im glad you have shared this article with all of us..Keep writing my friend…You rockkkkkkkRecommend


    Excellent piece of literacy and to the point…Shows the sincerity of the writer …Keep writing …you rockkkkkkkkkRecommend