Imagine you are the teacher and a student wrote the following as answer to a question. What would be his grade?
Question: Write a story not less than 250 words which ends with the line: 'He who laughs last, laughs best'.
Answer: Others had begun to write. By others, I mean (of course) my classmates - fellows being examined. I looked furtively at the boy in the front row furiously scribbling away. I brought my attention back to the blank booklet in front of me lest they say I was 'giraffing'.
I wiped a trickle of sweat. Do they mean a real story or fiction? Does the examiner mind my thinking out loud - not only aloud but on paper? Hmmm, I wanted to cross out the previous line. 'Thinking out loud', does that also cover writing one's thoughts? I digress. The war between making the handwriting neat and spotless and making sure I wrote the right thing raged on. Would the examiner allow a little untruth to pass or was his thinking same as mine. Was it a true or false thing or could it be gray? There I go again, what if the examiner hated Maths when he (or was it a she?) was in Secondary School. Those above us never talk of their school days except to mention they came first at a particular endeavour against impossible odds. If all came first, where were the students who were as unserious as me? I chuckled at the thought and quickly covered it with a cough. This was an examination and I should not be laughing. Besides, I shivered, didn't I just call myself an unserious student? How would the examiner see that? Again, I considered crossing that out. I had used the contracted "didn't" instead of its longer form. Perhaps the examiner's baby was crying and she (yes, I hope) glossed over that part. Maybe he's spleepy (he is, I mean) and isn't (sorry, is not) paying much attention. Another thought entered my already furiously scribbling hand (don't thoughts enter the mind instead?), have I written enough to beat the length criteria? (or should I use singular of criteria? Does it even have a singular form? Maybe I should just rule out the line). I tried to think of a way to count what I've written. I fleetingly remember the teacher saying something about number of words per line and number of lines written. I couldn't fully grasp it. What was I even doing at that time in class?
Well, this should be more than 250 words and of course, it is a story. What then is left? The line it should end with? I wonder what the examiner is supposed to look for in grading me. What if I fulfilled all and still got a big 'OP' written across my paper? OP being 'off point' by the way. This was a gamble - you may think not as huge as Russian Roulette where the options are life or death - but it is really life or death as anything less than a credit in this would mar the WAEC result forever. Wherever I go in Nigeria - and West Africa also - it would be hanging over my head - that I did not get a credit in English.
So, should I have written what I feel is the sum total of my English education (and thus be graded based on it) or satisfy the individual points the examiner looks for (whatever they may be). I remembered that this was only Section A and there were other questions to answer. So there goes, I pull the revolver trigger and wait for the empty barrel click that means I won - anything equal to or greater than C6 would do. But until then - when the result comes out - I would not be laughing. The examiner holds the last laugh and I'm sure he'll also have the best. I hope that is an ending appropriate to the question. I did it again. Second guessing myself introduced two sentences past the prescribed ending. Well, who says I can't also laugh?