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!