Anatomy of a Review

Some events get me angry. Some get me frustrated. There are rarely ones that get me both and more. At that point, I put my emotions down in writing and slander one and all concerned with nary a fuck given to such things as “consequences” and related stuff.

Today was our final internal review. My love for writing a lot would now make you realise that I am going to give a background, a prologue and may be an index page before I start off. Don’t ask me why I do that. To give a good analogy, it is akin to revving up a modern superbike so that you have a flying start when you release the brake.

When I say review, I implicitly refer to a review of my project work. Since more than half the Indian population is studying engineering, there is never any need to be explicit about exactly what kind of a review I am attending. Every review is *meant* to measure how much you have progressed in your project. What it becomes is a playground for the review panel to simply fuck around with you, laugh it off with each other and then say in that oh-so-silent-whisper-that-can-clearly-be-heard-across-the-whole-fucking-classroom that the group presenting their project has not done anything novel and that we’re somehow trying to “cheat” them. But more details on that later. Also, here is a meme I created for the occasion of us getting screwed:


No review goes as planned. You create a powerpoint file and instruct your project mates on what to do and who should read from which slide. Once you go inside the review hall, however, the panel is standing there just waiting to tear you up. There are many pictures online that illustrate my point but IMO, these are the best.

images                    firing-squad-picture

Obviously, the crocodiles and the shooting squad are compared to the panel.

Contrary to how generic the title of the post is, I am just going to discuss the reviews I have been a participant in victim of.

In any internal review, judging the panel is easy. You know most of the faculty and have a fair idea of who wants to screw you, who wants to screw with you, who is bored sitting there and can’t wait to get out and who is genuinely interested in what you have done. The problem is, none of this matters one whit in the greater picture.

I shall now broadly outline each generic member of the review panel. Or at least the types I have come across.

The One who is Bored:

He has no idea why he is in the panel. He is hardly interested in judging you and would just as soon get out of the place but has no choice. The best way to deal with this member is to concentrate on him only if you don’t know the subject at all. Best comparison? This guy:


If you genuinely know much about your project, there is no use concentrating on him since he will neither understand what you’re saying nor support you when the other jurors panel members pick on you.

The One who wants to screw with you:

This guy is the easiest to find out. He will ask you irrelevant questions in an accusing manner and more often than not, he is going to mark you well even though you answer like an idiot. He enjoys what he is doing and will sometimes give you nuggets of wisdom on how you can make improvements. Obviously, you must keep him on your side, listen to what he says and nod like he has a point (which he mostly does). An analogous meme would be this one:


The One who Nitpicks:

This is the most useless member of the panel. He has no significant contribution to make to your review so, to save face, he will nitpick on the most inconsequential stuff. For instance, spelling mistakes, grammar mistakes, not wearing the ID card, alignment problems in your report … and so on and so forth. I couldn’t find the perfect nitpicking meme but my friend suggested this and I guess it works.


The best strategy to take with this guy is to let him say what he wants and agree with it. There is no use trying to tell him that such inconsequential things do not matter outside of his own frame of reference since he has no other frame of reference. Although, analogously,  if you can convince a hungry monkey that trying to solve math is more important than going for that delicious banana, you can take a shot with this guy. It will be worth it since you will take up the entire review session simply convincing him that your ID card photo faded because the intensity of the RFID tag reader in your library is always set too high.

The Clueless Interested Guy:

This is the best of all the members of the panel. He knows nothing but he will nod at whatever you say and give you the feeling that Confucius had never said something more wise. If you have some sort of fear in facing a panel or are intimidated by most people on the panel, this is the guy you must turn to. Say whatever you want to him, make it sound complicated, make sure he keeps nodding and appears interested and you’re golden. The others may ask you questions on what you say but for the time and effort you give him, this guy will mark you just because you kept eye contact with him when you spoke rather than with the more experienced panel members.

The One who is Genuinely Interested:

You have to tread careful with this guy. He knows everything about the subject and will more likely screw you than not if you’ve done something stupid. It is better to simply acquiesce to all the problems in your project when he points them out. He is sometimes the benchmark for all the other clueless members of the project panel. If he believes a project is good, you will score good marks with every person in the panel. If he thinks, it’s shit, accept it and try telling him why you *thought* it was good and how you were obviously wrong. If he has a heart, you’ll still make it through.

The One who wants to Screw You:

He is the worst of them all. The most dangerous of the panel members. He knows what you’re talking about and is looking for a fault. He acts as an amplifier and brings your faults to the fore for all the members to see. He starts seeing faults the minute you open your presentation. Rather than limiting them to the essentials in your project, he will influence the nitpicking guy by finding grammatical and spelling mistakes as well. If you’ve done something novel and done it perfectly, he will let it slide as though it is inconsequential. He is also the most dangerous to play with. Of course, the best meme is Scumbag Steve.


You have to consider the whole panel and see how much they will be swayed by his opinions.

a) They are highly influenced by his opinions. You are officially screwed. TRY not to mention anything you have only a passing idea about. This guys knows all and sundry and he will try to screw you at a moment’s notice. So if whatever you are explaining is not your strong point, simply don’t bother. He will screw you in every which way and all you can hope is there isn’t much you’ll lose. If you are sure about what you’re saying, fight with all your might. Shout, rage, talk to him like he is a kid. Any strategy will work as long as you can convince him that he shouldn’t mess around with you in this subject. The other panel members will also be impressed if you’re able to keep your own against him. It all counts in your favour.

b) They are not all that influenced by his opinions. This is helpful. Simply listen to his question and maintain contact with each panel member when you answer. If he interferes, tell him you want to complete what you’re saying. Don’t be a complete idiot and say something so out of context that all the panel members get irritated and give you low marks. Maintain your cool and focus on impressing the others rather than this fellow.

Anatomy of my review

A little personal experience shall now follow.

It was a hot, sweltering day. They were waiting outside, preparing themselves for the inevitable doom. Today was D-day. The final review. The last night had been spent in perfecting the report and creating compellingly authentic fake codes whose sheer complexity, they hoped, would stun the panel into silence. There was little else to do but prepare themselves as well as they could. Reading and re-reading the report with an eye on the door of the conference room, they waited to see who’d be called next. One group had already gone in. The time allotted had been 30 minutes but it was well beyond that and they hadn’t come out.

Finally, they came out and told them they were the next group in. They all fist punched. It was time to rock the stage. They trooped inside and opened up the slide show. None of them was really sure *when* exactly the world came crashing down but at some point, it just did.

They had taken a good measure of every member of the panel. They knew most of them in person and all of them by face. There were 7 of them:

1) The useless fool. He never knew much about the subject but acted the true savant. A complete idiot, if there ever was one. He was notoriously infamous for how he could make you soporific and start doubting your existence with his sheer stupidity when taking classes. He’d want you to have an ID card with a tag. He would ask the most nutty questions but giving a calm answer would usually soothe him enough to mark you well.

2) The nut case. You could never impress him, try as you might. Unless his pre-conceived notion of you – based on warped real life standards like GPA and other such nonsense – was good, you might as well win the Nobel but you’ll never get good remarks from him.

3) The egg head. He was the real danger. He knew everything about your subject and was waiting to screw you. He also influenced the head of the panel and was going to pose the greatest problem since the panel head himself was quite clueless.

4) The panel head. Absolute sadistic moron. All he could do was laugh in your face while giving you the lowest marks. He was notorious for failing entire classes just because it pleased him. Sauron would have found an ally in this one. Unfortunately, he was heavily influenced by (3)’s opinions and (3) was all set upon impressing him in order to make his own agenda move forward. This was gonna be a tough one.

5) Unknown dude. They’d only heard of him once. Some genius in an unrelated field. Hopefully shouldn’t cause much problems for the other groups.

6) Another useless fool. Why was this guy even on the panel? Oh well. At least he will just stop with the laughing and not actually screw them. Besides, he hardly knew anything. What will he even screw them with?

7) Random lady. She’ll probably check the grammar and all that. It’s fine. Appease her with a few yes and no’s and you should be fine.

It all started with (3). That much they could remember. They had prepared an order for the slide presentation and all that. It was thrown out the window and things went haywire.

(3) and (4) were bent on screwing them. There was neither logic nor reason in what they argued.

You’ve used a high end tool .. Why didn’t you start from the scratch? You started from the scratch .. Why didn’t you use an already existing high end tool? This project is rubbish. You are cheating us. This is a term assignment, not a FYP. You took 6 months to do THIS?!? There should be a mathematical basis for your model .. How did you progress without one? nntool must NOT be used in projects!

Accusations flew left, right and center.

They were mind-numbed. They knew there would be opposition but this was an all out predator drone attack. Oh well. Nothing to do. Stand there and wait till they finish firing. Once they did, the panel head told them he was marking them for zero. Goddamn it. They should’ve argued. They shouldn’t have given in that easily. But what’s done was done.

They came out looking bedraggled. They were screwed and they knew it.

“Let’s go to canteen macha!”, said one of them and they pushed their ragging session into the darker recesses of their mind and moved on. As they always had.