Exam Supervisor Anneke Vroomen - Employees You See But Never Speak

Anneke Vroomen
Do you recognize this exam supervisor? This is Anneke Vroomen. She has been living in Zwartewaal, Voorne-Putten since 1975. She went to the teachers’ college for primary education, where she met her husband Math. To pursue their careers as a primary school teacher, they moved to Zwartewaal, and that is where they are still living now. Anneke and Math have been married for 48 years now; they have three kids and seven grandchildren. And both of them are exam supervisors! That’s ultimate couple goals if you ask me :) 
How did this exam supervisor thing come to you in the first place?
I have taught in primary schools for 43 years, which I truly loved. After I retired, I made a bucket list: Things I want to do while I still have the time and vitality! But after a while, I noticed I still really hadn’t done anything from the list. Of course, this was due to the fact that I had to take care of my grandchildren two days a week, but also because I got a little lazy. One day, my husband got a call from a friend: he said he was going to retire to take up this supervising job. The friend told us what this supervising job entails and we both got super excited! Mainly because you keep in touch with the youth, but also because you will meet so many new people, and you’ll operate in a completely different setting. We started out being a supervisor on the Hogeschool, but in 2017, I shifted to supervising at the EUR. My husband is still supervising at the Hogeschool. Sometimes, I take an empty shift at the Hogeschool so that we can work together!
Aha! Do you also meet up with other supervisors (apart from your husband Math) before or after the shift?
We are all assigned to a specific block based on the alphabetical orders of our names. So most of the times, I see more or less the same group of people. We always have to meet up 45 minutes before the actual exam will take place. This means that I have to be at the M-building (Van Der Goot) at 8:45 for a morning exam, which is quite early. However, this allows us to talk a little, and during those times, I have made two very good friends! The three of us have lunch together regularly. But I also meet so many other people, each with his/her own story, which is generally just a lot of fun to hear about.
I can imagine! Is that the most fun part about the job? Or are there also other interesting things?
I personally like the social part of this job. Before the exam start, I have to walk around to ask everyone to put their student card on the table and to investigate the other stuff on the table. During this inspection, I try to talk to the students about their prospects for the future after finishing their degree. These conversations also happen after collecting the exams at the end of my shift.
So by supervising during our exams, you kind of keep up to date with the youth and their thoughts?
Yes, exactly! I think that it is very important to keep up to date. Many people always tell me that, after working for so long, and simultaneously trying to take care of my own little family, I should perhaps take a step back and relax a little more. However, I don’t see this supervising job as a job. Of course, when signing up, I agreed to meet the obligations that come with supervising: but the supervising has led to many interesting conversations with the students, and I think that is the main added value for me.
I have so much respect for you, the students. During your exams, you have to be focused for such a long time: A human is simply not created with the ability to concentrate for 3 hours straight. I am so glad that I, myself, don't have to take exams anymore!
Okay, makes sense! And what is the least interesting part about being a supervisor?
Well, sometimes I have toilet shift, which basically means I have to be that person at the toilet who takes your card and gives your card back. This is very boring, because there’s not much to do. Having this toilet shift is especially bad when there’s only one or two blocks of people making exams: Barely any students show up for the toilet, but as a supervisor, you are not allowed to, for instance, read a magazine or be on your phone.
However, we found a way to make it more interesting. There’s always three people on this toilet shift: One is standing in the exam hall to check whether the students got their toilet pass, the second one is standing outside of the exam hall to check that you do not talk to any of the other students while you’re walking to the toilet, and the third one is actually sitting in front of the restroom area. We often change every half hour between these three locations, so that we minimize the boredom.
My friends asked me to ask you the following question: What is the weirdest way of cheating you caught someone doing?
That actually happened in my time supervising at the Hogeschool. Not exactly sure what happened, but suddenly, the lights in the exam hall went out. At this moment, I was standing next to the block of students, which allowed me to see a blue light. I would most probably not have seen this blue light if I was standing in front of the block or at the back of the block. I remember thinking: “How can there be blue light? What is that?”. And then, the penny dropped: This student was on his phone, and was searching for the answers to the exam!
And on our university? Any original cheating happening?
All the supervisors at the Erasmus University know that students sometimes sit “in formation”, especially in multiple choice exams: Sitting in formation basically means that students choose their spots strategically, hoping to see the answers of someone who actually studied. Nevertheless, because we know this fact, we are extra careful in multiple choice exams. Personally, I always make sure that, in multiple choice exams, people will keep their answer sheet directly in front of them, instead of allowing them to keep the answer sheet on the side.
An unfortunate case of cheating that happened was as follows: There was a guy who was still intensively studying his summary just before the exam would start. He put his summary in his back pocket without thinking about it, and he started making the exam. At one point during the exam, he had to go use the restroom. He suddenly realised that he still had his summary in his back pocket, and he decided to put the summary on the supervisor’s table. We would probably not have noticed that he took his summary to the restroom if he had just left it in his pocket, which makes the next event in this story even more painful: Because he put his summary on my desk, I was obliged to make a note about it. This means that his act of putting the summary on my desk (because he definitely did not want to cheat) was considered as an attempt to commit fraud (because he still was carrying a summary throughout the exam). Of course, the guy was very sad about this considered as an attempt to commit fraud, because that is what he tried to prevent!
Coming back to your last example, there’s quite a formal procedure before we can actually use the restroom during an exam. But what do you have to do when you need to go to the restroom?
Remember when I talked about the toilet shifts? Basically, before the exam starts, these three people on toilet shift are doing the following things: The first one is standing outside of the exam hall to answer any questions students might have, the second one is checking whether every student who comes in only takes one bag to his table, and the third one is just walking through the hall in order to check whether no irregularities take place. As soon as the exam starts, the second one will join the third supervisor in checking for irregularities before one hour has passed. During this check, these supervisors will ask any block supervisors whether they still need to use the restroom. If so, the toilet supervisors will take the place of the block supervisor, so that you still don’t get to cheat. This also happens during the final thirty minutes of the exam: Block supervisors often raise their hands to let the toilet supervisors, who by then have become irregularity-checker again, know that they really need to go. During the time in between, no substitution is possible, and that means that I have to ask the block supervisor next to me to keep an eye on my block as well. But this rarely happens, and of course, should be kept to a minimum.
Another request by one of my friends: Do you get paid for supervising?
Yes, I do. I get paid around 12 euro per hour, and this hourly wage increases when having a evening shift. Moreover, I get compensated 4,50 euro for each day I have to travel to the university to supervise. But I don’t really need the financial compensation, as I am living a good life already. Therefore, my husband and I decided to put the money we earn in this supervising job in a special hypothetical “jar”. This jar is meant for our seven grandchildren. The main purpose of this jar is to give them a brand new laptop as soon as they turn 12 and switch to secondary education. However, we also use this jar to give them money for their good report cards, or to take them to the zoo or something like that!
So it’s all for a good cause! As this interview is coming to an end soon, is there something that we, students, really need to know about the exam procedure?
Do you know the reason why we let you put your bag under your table? Of course, this gives the supervisors the room to walk around, while simultaneously it is made very difficult for you to cheat by using your bag. But there’s even a better reason: It’s because of the emergency plan. If there is an emergency, it is crucial for your own safety that you have the space to walk/run out of the exam hall if necessary. For instance, it can happen that, during an evening exam, an emergency happens and the lights go out. This means that you are unable to see possible bags, and that, in itself, is very dangerous and maybe even a life-or-death situation. So keep that in mind next time you want to roll your eyes when a supervisor asks you to put your bag under the table: It’s for your own safety!
Furthermore, the supervisors are not perfect either. We try to do our work in accordance with the specific regulations as much as possible, but to guarantee the quality of the supervising of your exams, we are also subject to evaluations regularly.
Supervisors are not perfect either. We learn as we go!
Ah, I never thought about it that way! Just a final question: Did the supervising job and exam procedures change a lot throughout the years you have been doing this then?
I have only been supervising on the university since the academic year 2017-2018 started, so I can’t really say anything from my own experiences. However, I have heard from my colleagues who are doing this supervising job for over thirty years, that things definitely have changed. For instance, in the past, there was a coffee cart going around in the exam hall. The coffee was not only for the supervisors, but also for the students who were actually making the exam!
Are you taking the Econometrics 1 exam on Monday? There’s a good possibility that you will see Anneke there! Don’t be afraid to say hi or ask any questions you still have ;)

About this article

Written by:
  • Rick Kessels
| Published on: Feb 22, 2019