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Keith Tse


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GCSE oral exam

In summer 2003, I sat my GCSEs at school as per national requirement. It was truly a formative experience as it was the first time a young soul like me then went through a series of nerve-racking exams in succession. There were many memorable moments that have stuck with me till now (and probably for life), but one particular moment stands out. It was my English oral exam (members of my old English class, feel free to shout out…!). We had to simulate a real-life interview, and the role play was a son being interviewed on a recent fallout with his mother. We all went in pairs in playing the interviewer and the interviewee (son) and we all had to decide on a set of questions to ask/answer before actually going on recording. I was feeling rather light-headed that day and was in pretty good mood, probably because I had just done my Grade 7 Viola exam and was feeling relaxed for once in a long time. I also had little regard for GCSE English, one of my least favourite subjects, so I entered the oral exam, which was held in a classroom setting (one pair at a time surrounded and watched by our teacher and the rest of the class), in a jovial and destructive mood. I chose the part of the interviewer since I really wanted to play a prank on someone by asking him things he did not expect (i.e. questions that were not on the list). From memory, it went like this:

Me: So, what has happened recently?

Him: I have recently had an argument with my Mum.

Me: Can you tell me a bit more?

Him: We disagreed on which school I should be going and she got angry when I told her that I didn’t want to go school.

Me: What exactly did you say to her that made her flip? (not in the script)

Him: uh… (hesitant, not sure what to say)… I told her that I didn’t want to go to school.

Me: And what did she say back to you? (not in the script)

Him: (looking around, not sure what to say) She said that she would force me to school.

Me: And what did you say back? (not in the script)

Him: (hesitant, confused) I just told her I didn’t want to go to school.

Me: Why do you think you said what you said, did what you did? (not in the script)

Him: I… I don’t know…. (confused, not sure what to say)

Me: When you said what you said, had you meant it? (not in the script)

Him: … yes.

Me: So why did you say what you said, do what you did? (not in the script)

Him: I did not want to go to school.

Me: Could it have been anger, frustration and hatred towards your mother that made you say what you said, do what you did? (not in the script)

Him:… maybe.

Me: How do you feel about the past? Whenever you look back at it, what feelings emerge in you? (not in the script)

Him:… (silent, speechless, confused)

Me: Could it be guilt, fear, regret? (improvised)

Him:… yes.

Me: If you could re-do everything, what exactly would you do differently? (not in the script)

Him: I’d have told her that I did not want to go to school.

Me: How long has it been since you fell out with your mother? (not in the script)

Him: (hesitant)… two weeks.

Me: So how has not seeing your mother in the past two weeks affected you and your life in the past two weeks? (not in the script)

Him: uh… (confused, almost in tears) I want to see my Mum.

Me: How do you feel about the future? What if you don’t see your mother ever again? How will not seeing your mother for the rest of your life affect you and your life for the rest of your life? (not in the script)

Him: (almost crying) I want to see my Mum.

Me: And how do you feel about now? If your mother were listening to this right now, what would you say to her? (improvised)

Him: (completely defeated) I just want to see my Mum.

Me: What if I told you that your mother is listening to this right now. (improvised)

Him: (confused) What do you mean?

Me: Your mother is here. In fact, she is right behind you. There she is! What would you say to her now? (improvised)

Him: (totally dumbfolded)

Me: That’s it. Thank you. You have been great. Goodnight everybody.

As far as I recall, everyone in the class (our teacher included) was stunned by our interview. My partner naturally got furious at me, throwing his stationary at me and yelling that my questions were not on the list of questions that we had agreed on. Our teacher, however, was quite impressed as he came up to me and said, ‘Bloody hell Keith… a radio-man is born.’ Happy times! Maybe it is not too late to seek a career in the entertainment industry.

#childhood #education #reminiscence

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© Keith Tse (2015-) 

London, United Kingdom