“You’re all set; any questions?” the woman quietly asked.
“No,” Thomas responded. “Thank you.”
After the woman left, he went through the introductory questions, the tutorial, and then clicked “Begin exam.”
Here we go, he thought. His heart beat anxiously as the first question appeared.
This one’s easy, he thought. I’ve seen this before. He selected option ‘c’ and clicked ‘next.’
Thomas got through the next ten questions fairly easily and was feeling confident about how the exam was going until he came to question 12.
He had to read the question a few times in order to understand what was being asked. As he contemplated the answers, Thomas looked down at the keyboard and noticed that the letter ‘c’ was highlighted. Must be a glitch in the keyboard, he thought. He read through the answer options again and selected ‘c.’
The next five questions were answered in a matter of minutes and Thomas was still feeling good about the exam. All the questions he had answered thus far were basic review questions, with a few case study examples. I knew I was ready for this; this is much easier than I expected. I’ll pass for sure, Thomas thought. He then clicked the ‘next’ button and stared at the screen.
This question was a bit tougher, and Thomas tried to rule out obvious wrong answers. He looked down at the keyboard again to process his thoughts and noticed that ‘c’ was no longer highlighted. Instead, the letter ‘d’ glowed with a dim, orange light. Thomas’ brow furrowed, and he wondered what was wrong with the keyboard. He quickly clicked ‘previous question’ until he got back to question number two. He looked at his answer on the screen, marked as answer ‘c,’ and then down at the keyboard where ‘c’ was highlighted. Thomas looked over his shoulder at the testing officiator on the other side of the glass wall to see if she had noticed. He knew he was being videotaped and was unsure whether or not this was a practical joke. Thomas clicked forward in the exam to his current question, checking every answer against what key was highlighted on the keyboard; ‘a,’ ‘b,’ ‘c,’ or ‘d.’ He was certain of his answers thus far in the exam, and so far everything he had marked matched up with what the keyboard highlighted.
This keyboard knows the exam; it’s giving me the answers, Thomas realized.
He read through the next question and, sure enough, the keyboard was giving him the correct answer. He clicked the ‘next’ button after confirming with the keyboard and answering the question, and continued the exam. He looked over his shoulder, then back at the keyboard, and thought about what was happening.
I’m not doing anything wrong, he thought. I came prepared for this test. I just so happened to sit at the desk with the cheating keyboard. He paused. Will I be caught? Could they catch me? Thomas noticed that he was sweating as he tried to justify his actions.
I won’t look at the keyboard, he considered. I’ll decide on the answer, then look at the keyboard for confirmation. I’m prepared anyways. Maybe this is just someone’s way of making sure I pass. He thought again about what he had decided, and then nodded to himself. Okay, let’s do this.
Thomas continued the exam, following his outlined plan, confirming with the keyboard after every question. He felt confident until he got to the third and final portion of the test, where he saw an exact question from his practice exams.
It was a basic question, taken from the first chapter of his study book. He had answered this question dozens of times, but the keyboard was giving him a different answer than what he knew was right. This is ridiculous, he thought. I know the answer is ‘a’ but this stupid keyboard is telling me ‘d.’ He clicked the ‘previous’ button, then went back to the question to make sure that the keyboard wasn’t stuck. The ‘d’ key glowed when the ‘a’ key should have been lit up. Agh! he thought. What is going on?
He selected ‘a’ and clicked the ‘next’ button, but couldn’t focus enough to read the next question. He went back to the previous question and stared at the screen, then the keyboard. It has given me the right answers every time; why is it doing this now? Thomas thought.
He considered raising his hand so the testing attendant would come to his computer, but realized what a fool he would look like. His mind started to spin and his eyes glassed over, and he tried to shake off the feeling of stupor. He looked back at the screen.
Maybe I shouldn’t be doubting the keyboard, he considered. Maybe I’m confusing what I thought. But this is such a basic question.
He changed his answer to ‘d’ and clicked ‘next.’ Thomas went through the final part of the exam, second guessing himself and everything he thought he knew. He became more and more frustrated with himself and the keyboard for disagreeing, but he decided to side with what the keyboard told him. When he had finished all 100 questions, he looked at the clock in the top right hand corner of the screen and noticed that he still had thirty minutes left.
I have enough time to review all the questions again, he thought.
Thomas when back to the beginning of the exam and, while reviewing his initial answers, realized that the keyboard was giving different answers now. Thomas frantically clicked the ‘next’ button, glancing from the keyboard to the screen as he reviewed each answer. Terror gripped his mind. He let go of the mouse and his hands shot to cover his face.
What is happening?
He looked back over his shoulder but nothing had changed. The room was deadly silent, but he was screaming inside. He wanted to smash the keyboard, to throw it against the wall. He looked back at the clock, noticing that only eighteen minutes remained.
I have to calm down, he thought. Just go through the questions again, and do what feels right. Don’t look at the keyboard. Forget the keyboard.
As Thomas clicked through the questions, he became more confused and unsure of his answers. He couldn’t help but look at the keyboard for what he thought was right. He wondering if the keyboard had been lying all along, but couldn't bring himself to go against it. He began changing answers based upon what the keyboard was now illuminating, even thought it meant going against what he had initially known. He had five minutes to go as he sped through the last few questions, feeling ever more uncomfortable about his answers.
With one minute remaining, he completed the last question, and a screen popped up with the option to ‘end exam.’ Thomas knew that this was either a ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ test, and that he had to get at least an eighty percent to pass and receive his CRL. He looked down at the keyboard and noticed that neither ‘a,’ ‘b,’ ‘c,’ or ‘d’ were illuminated. Only one key was bright, with that cheating orange glow: the ‘escape’ key. He looked back and forth from the ‘escape’ key to the ‘end exam’ button, and wondered if he could ‘escape’ after hitting the ‘end exam’ button. Something in him knew he could not. His left index finger hovered over the ‘escape’ button while his right index finger rested on the mouse.
Where would this escape key take me? Is this some kind of magical keyboard? I’m pretty sure I failed this test, but I did what the keyboard said, so maybe I passed? He felt a small glimmer of hope, but it wavered.
He hit the ‘escape’ key at the same time the screen flashed a message saying ‘time expired.’ The screen went white, then black, then faded to a muted gray. With a slight popping noise, the computer shut off. Thomas looked from left to right in bewilderment but nothing changed. After a moment, the woman testing attendant came in the room with a troubled look on her face. She leaned over to whisper in Thomas’ ear.
“I’m so sorry, your exam didn’t save. The computer malfunctioned and we have no way of collecting your answers. You’ll have to come back and take the exam again.”