Remember exam time? The frantic cramming, the squeaky shoes of the exam invigilator striding between the desks or sitting purposefully at the head of the room. Well, they weren’t just doing it for kicks – invigilating exams can be a great way to make a bit of quick cash and almost anyone can do it.
It’s not as easy as it looks though – you need tact in dealing with stressed students, not to mention the ability to keep quiet for long periods and remain alert no matter how slowly the minutes may pass.
Oh, and a pair of non-squeaky shoes is essential…
Most education authorities, colleges and universities will recruit people for invigilating exams prior to their May-June and January exam periods, so the weeks or months before then are the best time to start looking. However, in some cases exams can fall outside this time too.
Check out your local borough council website for positions at local schools, which will need people to oversee GCSE and A-level exams. If you have a child at school, keep an eye out for any announcements in the school newsletter, or it might even be worth asking schools in your area directly.
For colleges, universities and adult education authorities, search for vacancies on their individual websites. Many also go through recruitment agencies or advertise on job websites, so try your luck with these (tip: a quick search on Google for ‘exam invigilators’ should show the most current crop of positions).
Obviously, school exams will be during school hours, while university exams may run until a little later, making it an ideal temporary job for part-timers, retirees or stay-at-home parents.
You don’t need any experience, as training is provided – basically if you’re responsible and available to work, you’re in with a good shot. Some places will require a CRB check, depending on their individual policies. This can be tricky to get at short notice and if you haven’t had one before it could cost you £40. See our full article on DBS checks.
The rate varies but you can expect anything between £7 to £10 per hour (universities may pay more). How much you end up with will depend on how many exams you can sit in on.
So, for example, if you were to sit in on two three-hour exams a day over a two-week period at the maximum pay rate, you could finish up with £600. Not too shabby for pacing up and down.
There is a lot more to invigilating exams than turning up to open the doors and shouting “pens down!” at the end. Training will generally be provided before the exam period starts and each school or university will undoubtedly have their own procedures to follow, but here are some of the basics:
Before the exam
You’ll have to arrive early, half an hour to an hour before the exam is due to begin, to set up the exam room. This will likely include:
- Placing answer booklets and question papers on each desk
- Checking all seats are labelled correctly and that there is a suitable gap between each table to ensure students can’t copy others
- Knowing what equipment students are allowed (Calculators? Extra paper? Is it an open book exam?)
- Put up regulation notices, seating allocations, exam start and finish times, centre and paper number and ensure clocks are visible (even for those at the far end) and working
If it is a large exam hall, there will probably be a few invigilators so you can divide how many tables each of you will oversee.
Start of the exam
- Direct students to their seats and tell them where to leave their bags
- Confiscate any items that aren’t allowed, such as revision notes, textbooks, calculators (unless otherwise allowed), and of course, any mobile phones
- Read exam regulations to students and give out any specific exam instructions
- Make sure no one starts reading or writing before the start time
- Checking the ID of all students and marking their attendance (you will generally have to inform the office immediately if any students are absent)
- Not letting anyone in or out of the room before the allowed time has passed
During the exam
This is where a little tedium may set in. You must remain alert throughout the entire exam, to remain on the lookout for students who need help, or those who may be using less than honest means to finish their paper. This means you CANNOT use the time to read or write yourself, and not stand around chatting with the other invigilators. You will have to:
- Circulate the room regularly (this is where those soft-soled shoes come in handy!)
- Observe the students, but try not to stand reading over their shoulders (it can be off-putting to students)
- Accompany students to the toilet if needed
- Hand out extra paper or answer booklets if requested
- Make sure there is no talking and that any disruptions (such as loud noises outside) are taken care of as quickly as possible
- Give regular time checks and announce when the exam time is almost finished (usually when there’s 15 minutes left)
If you do suspect a student of cheating, it is likely each individual institution has their own procedure for dealing with it that you should follow.
Depending on the length of an exam, you may be allowed to take a short break. Some exams can be up to three hours long!
End of the exam
- Tell candidates that they should stop working and remind them that they’re still in exam conditions
- Collect all answer sheets and question papers BEFORE dismissing the students
- Make sure answer sheets are in the right order (it might be by ID number or classes) before returning them to the office
The good news is invigilating exams means quick money can be made for not doing too much other than observing, but this job probably isn’t for you if you bore easily or have a short attention span. While it doesn’t take a lot of physical effort, you really do need to be mentally focused on the task at hand.
For example, if someone raises their hand asking for help you need to attend them immediately – they shouldn’t have to try to get your attention for five minutes when they’re in timed conditions.
You will also need a lot of patience and understanding. Exams can be extremely stressful for some, so you need to be prepared in the event a student seems panicky. A little sympathy won’t go astray – doubtless they have enough to worry about without having to deal with an unfriendly exam invigilator.
- List of local borough councils
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