On the tram approaching the stop for my finals, I found a some notes I’d mislaid for the ‘Learning and Development’ exam lurking in the depths of my bag. The title said “The four main factors essential to learning” and although they were definitely in my handwriting I couldn’t remember ever having set eyes on them before.

This isn’t the first time this happened: in my written exams I was floored by a question which I couldn’t begin to answer having mislaid the index card early on in my revision. In that case I’d had about 25 other questions and four hours to answer them in so I wasn’t too worried, but this time the education ministry had decreed that the entire two years of learning would be examined in four fifteen minute interviews. I’d have a total of three questions in ‘learning and development’ so if the ‘four factors essential to learning’ came up and I didn’t know the list by heart I’d lose a third of my grade. I slipped the notes into my shirt pocket, and kept checking them while I recited the ‘four factors’ all the way into college.

I was directed to a ‘waiting room’ in one of the classrooms. We were told that we’d be picked up by our examiners, taken to our interview room, and brought back to wait for the next one. I was duly picked up by the first examiner and we went to the interview room where I had to take three random cards off a pile, read the questions on the other side, and answer them. This set the pattern for the next hour: go to interview room, take random questions, try to answer questions without brain freezing, back to waiting room.

In ‘Learning and development’ the first randomly selected question was inevitably: “Name the most important factors for learning.”

After the fourth interview I was legally obliged to push off and not come back for a couple of hours, so I duly pushed. Two hours later I found my colleagues in a very good mood, mainly because we’d all finished a rather long examination process, and in several cases because they’d spent the intervening time in the bar down the road. We gathered in our now former classroom, which already looked a bit forlorn with tables pushed to the walls and old projectors and flip chart frames dumped in the corners.

When my name was called out I went to the front, took my certificate, shook hands with the tutors, and rushed back to sit down and look at the grades.

To my absolute astonishment I’d passed with a ‘1.5’, a comfortable margin as a pass is anything up to a three or four.

Suddenly two years of training ended, with a sense of anticlimax. Most people went to celebrate, but I exited via a back door and headed back to the tram. As I got on I felt something crackly in my shirt pocket and retrieved a piece of paper.

I’d been carrying the answer to “The four learning principles” all the way through my exams.