Appearance Myths Uncovered
It’s fair to say I’ve experienced the Knowledge from all angles. I gained my green badge in 1988, left the trade completely in 1999, then started the Knowledge again in 2010. I was surprised to be offered a re-test four months’ later, well before I was ready; and even more surprised to pass a long, gruelling, Appearance with Mr Wilkin. A year later I became a Knowledge examiner, left after eight months, then returned as a temp for another seven months in 2015. In the summer of 2014 I also did some tutoring at a Knowledge school. Throughout these experiences I was confronted with a lot of questions surrounding the weird and frightening world of the Knowledge. Some questions were asked by Knowledge students, while others were thrown up during the course of my work as an examiner and a tutor.
Everything to do with the Knowledge is intense. You can feel the fear and pressure as an examiner, though I found being a tutor was the most challenging episode. Tutoring at the school was very humbling. The experience reminded me how seriously everyone takes it, and how it affects people. Students seemed to thrive on rumour and conspiracy theories, and people were now looking to me for answers! Students would sidle up to me at the end of a session and expect me to know why they didn’t perform at their last Appearance. I had no answers to this. They seemed competent enough handling mock Appearances in a school setting, but would be full of self-doubt when they scored a couple of “Ds” up at the Towers.
Some of the questions asked at the Knowledge school surprised me, and I think some of my answers surprised people too. Many questions asked were based on ancient myths that I am surprised are still circulating. So, I think it’ll be useful to look at some of the issues raised, and expel some myths about Appearances. Here then are some responses to some questions I’ve received in my Knowledge-handling career:
- You are not obliged to wear a suit and tie, but I would strongly recommend it. The rules say you should dress in a smart, professional, manner. I know, professionals don’t all wear suits and ties these days, but your examiners feel the need to maintain tradition, and they expect that of you too.
- Examiners are not told what they can ask. Your first Appearance will be based on the Blue Book. After that you can pretty much be asked anything – though it must be within the six-mile limit. Maps issued to examiners don’t have the six-mile limit circled, but few Points outside the exclusion zone get asked these days.
- If you think your examiner has made a mistake, politely point it out. If unsatisfied, ask to speak to the manager ASAP. Your query will be taken seriously and it won’t go against you.
- There are no quotas: examiners don’t have to pass or fail a certain number of people in any given period. There are no quotas for men and women either! (I took this question seriously). Nor there is prejudice against people with ginger hair! (I treated this question less seriously, but it’s worth thinking about!).
- Examiners sometimes ask obscure Points that are unlikely to be asked by a cab customer. Examiners know you spend longer on computers or in a school than you do on your bike. Every day, they see candidates who roughly know where a Point is because they’ve looked it up on a computer, but they don’t know exactly where it is because they’ve not seen it with their own eyes. Never guess a Point. If you own up immediately, you’ll only lose one point. If you get a guess wrong you will lose a lot more.
- You are judged only on your current Appearance. Your previous Appearance sheets are scanned and attached to your file, and all files now only exist on computer. Sometimes your examiners will look to see what runs you were asked previously, and they might hone in on your weak points. If they have time. Not surprisingly, the computerised files take longer to view than the paper files, and they give less information. Generally, all an examiner knows about you are the questions you’ve previously been asked, and your scores. Don’t worry about your last Appearance, just concentrate on the here and now.
- Examiners don’t say bad things about you on your file. Not any more, anyway. The days are gone where your weaknesses and attitude were commented upon. Occasional comments on your performance are made on your Appearance sheet, but these are brief and strictly factual. In the spirit of transparency, these comments are likely to be written on your feedback sheet, so there are no secrets.
- Finally, my personal favourite! …There is no date in your file suggesting your Req date. The idea makes me laugh, but enough candidates have asked it to suggest that people still believe this ludicrous rumour. See above: there are no quotas. It’s purely down to your performance over time. Once you’ve gained enough points you get your Req.
I often read web postings where students worry about very trivial problems. There is always more than one way of running a run. The important thing is to connect the two Points. Keep it simple if you don’t know the name of every little cut-through road.
Finally, a bit more about confidence. In many cases, a bad Appearance is caused by being excessively nervous and lacking confidence, things that are virtually impossible for me to cure. You’re nervous, because it means a lot to you. A touch of nervousness is good, it sharpens you. Some people always study harder than you, or at least they say they do (sometimes it’s quantity over quality too). Don’t compare yourself with others. If you’ve studied as hard as time and resources have allowed, you’ve done all you could. You have earned the right to be confident. Ignore the myths and rumours. The examiners want you to succeed. An Appearance is your opportunity to shine.
Copyright: Chris Ackrill, 2016.