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Examiners are dispassionate, but if you succeed in infiltrating one semi-colon into an essay they will be so filled with nostalgic delight that a pass grade is assured.

Many, now so many, years ago, I spent a quiet summer working for a local examining body. For the first part of the summer, I was checking markers' arithmetic in essay and translation papers; for the second, I was a runner for the assessors who had the task of fixing the grades and smoothing out any accidental bias. Each part of the job had its pleasures, but the first was perhaps a little more stimulating.

It must be a lonely and frustrating task marking 'A'-level papers, and all the more so because you know the candidate is never going to see your comments. Insignificant job-students such as myself would, of course, but your peers among the assessors? luck of the draw. I'm happy to say that this masked level of anonymity did not deter all the markers from letting rip, and I still treasure some of the comments I saw in that year's English Lit. papers.

The more refined satisfaction of life as a runner was having the alphabet at my fingertips, hundreds of heavy manilla envelopes full of answer-papers arranged in neat piles according to the name of the examining centre. The game, of course, was to respond to a request for a particular centre's envelope as quickly and with as few false starts as possible. "Would you bring me, please, Melmby Saint Joachim?" And in between these moments of suave action, I read calmly and steadily through Camilla, from cover to cover.