Monthly Musing – November 2021 – Exam fever

If you’ve got children or grandchildren who are taking their GCSEs next summer, there’s a good chance that your house is a mock exam zone just like ours is right now.

Not so small daughter appears, at the moment, to have the balance between revision and down time about right, although we will of course find out just how well-balanced that actually turned out to be when she gets her results in a couple of weeks!  It’s made particularly difficult this year after so much time away from school and although she didn’t have to try to take her GCSEs earlier this year after all the lockdowns as so many in the year above her did, she is exclaiming more regularly than I would like that she hasn’t been taught certain sections of the syllabus just yet and there’s no way she can answer questions on whatever it is.  There’s still time and I am sure that she will have learnt everything she needs to before next May, but it’s not easy for anyone to get to grips with what still needs to be done and what has been left out in an attempt to help students who have missed so much time from face-to-face lessons.

What has also not helped is that the mock exam results were used to produce actual GCSE grades over the last year or so and that completely sinks my theory that they are there to help you to practice exam technique and to show you what you still need to know, not whip you into a frenzied state of stress about them being the most important exams you’ll ever do.

I think that believing that your entire life’s hopes and dreams are pinned on exams that you do at the age of 16 and that if that goes wrong your life is over, is heart-breaking.  I suspect that many of us have lived through that stress and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

From my lofty parental vantage point, I can see now that although life is easier if we speed along the straight-road motorways of GCSEs, A levels and degrees of the education system, sometimes we get to our destinations by the A roads, winding along our journeys and making stops at places that we perhaps hadn’t intended but which always gave us something to carry forward with us.  Life has a way of working itself out in ways that we can never begin to imagine and often life is so much the richer for it.

So, rightly or wrongly, I am not standing over not so small daughter to check that she is spending every minute revising.  I know that she won’t want to let herself down by not doing any work at all, and I have been helping whenever she has needed me to (although I still can’t do quadratic equations!), but I have also been making sure that she is getting plenty of sleep, a soak in a hot bath if she needs it, a cuddle with the cat or the dog and time to squeeze in a few pages of the book she’s reading.  Yes, the mock exams are important, but so is her well-being and I believe that keeping a balance will ultimately produce better results.

Good luck to your loved ones in their exams too!


A black cat is lying on some papers on a table next to a laptop

“What do you mean, this isn’t helping with the revision?!”


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18 Responses

  1. CJ says:

    Yes, GCSEs and A-levels here, and I am doing the hands off approach. Not many signs of revision on the GCSE front 🙂 I occasionally ask if all is going well and if I should be staging an intervention. Apparently this is not required. There is a lot of relaxing going on to be honest. I haven’t seen any signs of revision at all in fact. Now you have me wondering if I should be worried…

    • winwickmum says:

      I could worry the same thing when you see revision apparently happening with a phone in one hand, but I’m going to give her the benefit of the doubt this time round – more exams to come in January so we’ll see how the results go this time otherwise the revision could be happening downstairs where I can see exactly what’s going on! 🙂 xx

  2. Mary says:

    These poor children are put through intolerable pressure. What on earth are we doing to them? Health and happiness comes first and always. Not much fun for the teachers either. You are so right, life gives a many twists and turns and I honest believe if your children are brought up to be decent human beings they will succeed in life.

    • winwickmum says:

      I agree, it’s an enormous amount of stress for the teachers as well and it can’t be fun for anybody. We’ve got one more week of exams and then she can take her foot off the revision accelerator for a week or so – can’t wait! 🙂 xx

  3. Annie says:

    As the mother of 3 grown up daughters I realise that exam results aren’t the be all and end all. My daughters all did well in their exams(though not straight A’s)but did not want to go on to university. They went on to take ‘in house’ training and exams relevant to their careers and are now in well paid successful jobs in banking, communications and IT. We never put pressure on them and let them plot their own course. Children today are under so much pressure from all angles I wonder how they cope.

    • winwickmum says:

      I think a lot of the time the schools are under the pressure themselves to provide suitable statistics to tick the Government’s boxes. It makes it very difficult for schools to incorporate everything that should be important to help produce confident, well-rounded students and I feel that does both the school and the students a disservice. I’m glad your girls are doing well in their chosen professions and hope they continue to do so xx

  4. Joanne Palmer says:

    According to a report by The Children Society (2020), out of 23 European countries, by age 15 our children are the least satisfied with life and rank lowest for having purpose in life. We are also 2nd for the saddest children.
    Sadly our culture/education system is failing our children, too much pressure on exams and academic progress etc 😔

    • winwickmum says:

      That is such a sad statistic for our children! I do hope that things will change over the coming years and there will be a better balance between academic and non-academic subjects xx

  5. Kathryn says:

    My not-so-small-daughter is also in mock GCSE mode, and seems to have the balance of revision and relaxing pretty much right. She is, however, very indignant that she is stuck with exams when she wants to be focusing on Christmas! As someone with a grade D history A level and a PhD in history I am here to tell her (and any others in the same boat) that exam results are far from the be-all and end-all, and I hope she has got that message. As an added bonus she is also in the middle of trying to decide what subjects she wants to pick for A level, and by extrapolation what uni courses she might want to do, so that she can cover as many bases as possible. We are taking breaks to watch cheesy Christmas movies!

    • winwickmum says:

      It sounds like you’re following a similar path to us and I totally agree with you. We have at least got the A level subjects picked out and even a possible degree course but we’ll see if that changes – and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t. Good luck to your girl, enjoy the cheesy movies (oh there are some seriously cheesy ones out there, aren’t there – we’re hooting at some of them!) 🙂 xx

  6. Denise says:

    My main goal for our daughter (who has a mental illness) was for her to end Year 12 (as it’s known in Aus) with her mental health intact. Since then she has completed a double degree in Arts and Science, with Honours in Forest Science, a post-grad psychology certificate, and is now undertaking something to do with fish (management and conservation I think) which will enable her to be a fishwrangler of some kind. She followed her passion, biology and zoology, and threats was clearly the right path. I am so proud of her…there are lots and lots of ways to end up where you want to be! All we can do is love them and support them.

    • winwickmum says:

      That is such a lovely story to read, thank you for sharing that with me! Your pride in your daughter shines through your words and rightly so. I think that being a fishwrangler sounds amazing (I have visions of her wrestling some enormous sea creature but that might be my over-active imagination now I know there are fish with teeth in the canal where I walk the dog!) and I wish her all the best for the future xx

  7. Fiona says:

    It’s a horrid stage of life! 3 of mine went through it and on to uni – all 3 are now pursuing different paths than they planned but all happy. Youngest was home educated & chose a different route. Undertaking a theatre based course has been interesting during lockdown, to say the least! This week is the culmination of a term’s prep for pantomime then into a week of academic review work, so also stressful in yet another way. Overall, she seems happy though so a big relief!

    • winwickmum says:

      I’m really glad it all worked out for them! I think that being able to do a course of your own choosing might have it’s stresses but it’s different because you chose to be there so I hope everything goes well for the panto and review! 🙂 xx

  8. Corinne says:

    I do feel for the students facing exams. I remember our daughters getting all stressed out, but they came through it all and now have good jobs which they like to go to each day. Their degree subjects had nothing to do with the jobs they now have!
    I remember seeing Henry Winkler, aka The Fonz, saying that children who are not good academically should not worry because they may be the person who makes or mends his car or washing machine, or cuts his hair. All are needed in a balanced society. I think children should be allowed time out to be themselves now and then and not have unnecessary pressure put on them, but we all want them to do well in life. It’s an impossible conundrum! Enjoy the Christmas movies. 🎄

    • winwickmum says:

      I’m glad everything worked out for your girls – exam stress is horrible to watch them go through, especially when as you say they might end up doing something completely different in the end! We’re just telling not so small daughter that better results mean more choices and although she has an idea of what she wants to do, I know that might well change and at the end of the day, we just want her to be happy with whatever she ends up doing! 🙂 xx

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