Testing times

Today I had to sit an exam. 

Casting my mind back through the darkening fog of memories, I think the last time I sat any kind of exam was in 1991. By odd happenstance, this was also in June and could well be exactly twenty years ago. Fresh out of university and at a loose end, I had taken it into my head that a career in the European Union might be worthy of my intellect and social standing. My father was unusually supportive in this endeavour; unusual in that he was generally against anything to do with what he referred to as the 'common market.' I can only assume that he was hoping I would become disillusioned with the great grey bureaucratic edifice.* Either that or he was desperate for me to get a job.

Back in the day, you had to pass a couple of exams before you could even be considered for a position in any of the EU Departements. To do this, you needed an understanding of the history and workings of the institution, and you had to demonstrate at least a basic understanding of one of the official EU languages other than your native tongue. The exams took place at the Highland Showground in Ingliston, just outside Edinburgh and close to the airport. I turned up unprepared beyond having spoken to my uncle, who was a high up Eurocrat at the time. A couple of hundred other hopefuls who were there at the same time had probably tried a bit harder.

The first paper was multiple guess, and contained all manner of questions about the history of the EU that I'm sure are very important to know.** Each question had four possible answers, so I must have scored at least 25%. My dreams of joining the EU gravy train had pretty much evaporated before I arrived at the exam hall, and they died completely when I saw the earnest faces of my co-examinees, so I didn't exactly try very hard. Once I'd randomly selected answers for each question, I went back through the question paper making up fifth answers as humorously as I could, writing them down on the question paper. I thought I'd be able to bring this home as a keepsake and have a chuckle about it with my mates down the pub, but at the end of the exam all the question papers were collected in along with the answers. That was when I noticed that each question paper had the name and serial number of the person taking the exam on it. I like to think that my desecration raised a wry grin on the face of whoever had to mark the papers. More likely it was torn up and thrown away with an angry snarl. My experience of the kind of people working for the EU in the early nineties was that sense of humour was low down on the list of essential qualifications.

For some obscure reason I can't recall what my exact score was in the test. I think I did surprisingly well in the French - surprising because my French is universally recognised as being awful. I wanted to do the exam in Gaelic, but apparently that's not an official EU language, or at least it wasn't then. Today I'd possibly even scrape a pass if I did it in Welsh. At the time I was relieved to get a 'non, merci' letter, since it meant I could put off looking for gainful employment for another few months.

Fast forward twenty years, and in a suitably ironic twist today's exam was a direct result of EU intervention. In order to transport livestock more than 65km, you need to have passed a test quizzing you on animal welfare, what sort of vehicle is appropriate and other pertinent facts surrounding the legislation. In the UK, this is a City and Guilds certificate, and the test consists of twenty-seven multiple guess questions. You have an hour to complete this, on-line at a certified testing place.

Including the time wasted doing the tutorial that explained how to choose the answer you wanted (hint - radio buttons. You can only select one answer), I finished the test in a shade under seven minutes.*** There are nine sections to the test, and I aced seven of them. I only managed 80% in Causes and signs of stress in animals, and a distressing 60% in Checking animals and fitness to travel. It's still a pass, and that's all that matters. I can now transport animals for anything up to eight hours, should I wish.

Now all I need is a suitable trailer for my new toy, which by complete coincidence arrived today. Call it a prize for passing my test.


It worries me that some people take the whole hour to complete the test though. And some don't manage to finish. Not a ringing endorsement for our education system, really.

* which worked, as it happens. I would rather boil my head in someone else's wee than work for the EU or support it in any way. This doesn't make me xenophobic; there are lots of things I like about the people and culture of all the diverse European nations, particularly their diversity. Trying to shoehorn them all into one Franco-German bureaucratic model is a recipe for disaster. Here endeth the eurorant.
** If you're the sort of person who worries about Norway, that is.
*** I'm a slow reader, OK?


Gabriele C. said…
Congrats on passing the test and the new shiny.

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