The Results Are In

Today, my brother and all the other Fifth Year leavers across the UK received their GCSE results. This was the first time that my brother had ever gone to collect results, so naturally my parents and I, accompanied with other parents of GCSE students, assembled in Caffé Nero, nervously biting our finger nails and sipping our tasteless cappuccinos.

Finally, we have the awaited phone call, that is instantly answered before the first note of the ringtone is even finished. I looked at my mother’s face, staring rigidly to see a subtle sign in her expression to show joy or dismay. I was glad to see that all the members of our company showed the former.

I am so proud of my brother. He held his own in the exams and did well in the subjects that were his weakest. Having my results a week earlier may have created added tension to the wait, and I hope he now feels relieved that the wait is over.

I would like to extend my congratulations to other GCSE students who have got what they wanted, but as news started to leak back to us, it was clear that others did not get what they were hoping for. To you, I express my condolences and I would like to directly talk to you now.

The exam world is a busy one. I know it is tough on students, revising all year round for one hour in a stuffy room with a pen in one hand and the paper in the other. I know that it is tough on teachers and examination officers, to get pupils ready for the exam time and then waiting, celebrating and consoling students during results time, only to start the long routine again at the start of the next academic year. I know parents worry about their child about how well they will do. It’s hard on everyone involved.

There is common conflict between many students over grades. Is it my fault if I fail? Was last year’s paper easier than this year’s? Was that question on the syllabus? Am I better at coursework or exams? Is my generation getting lazier? Are GCSEs losing their importance? Do grades rate how intelligent I am? What if…

The number of questions are endless and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by them. I would like to put my thoughts down on what you should do with bad grades.

It’s hard to deal with bad grades. You don’t know what to blame. It’s like a huge game of Cluedo, and the grades are the murder victim. In the end, everyone’s innocent and guilty at the same time. Many reasons boil down to what happens to your grades, including what you did and what was on the exam. You can’t be too hard on yourself for what happens. Sometimes, all it boils down to is luck.

Take two students about to go into an exam. Let’s say they are of equal standing, and will both get one mark below an A in the paper they are about to sit. Say Student A spent five minutes before the exam to randomly look at one more definition, taking his grade to an A, and Student B didn’t. Student A isn’t cleverer that Student B, he just chanced on the correct definition for the paper.

I’ve heard this argument used quite a few times now, and there is truth to it, but it doesn’t mean you can blame the exam. You could argue that the system of exams is poorly designed, but at the moment, this is the best design we have (which the government are still trying to improve all the time).

As I sit down in my dining room typing this, different points and arguments are wading through my mind like a bed of eels swimming in Red Bull. On exams as a whole, I think I should just leave it at there is no ‘easy answer’. In the end, it all boils down to a Thursday morning, and a white envelope… and sometimes, it can be bad.

On my first year of A-levels, I did not get what I needed to continue on my chosen path of veterinary work. At the age of twelve, I took my dog into our local vets for a check-up, and wondered if I could help out in the practice out of interest. I was told I could when I was fourteen, so I waited patiently until then to ask for work experience. I was accepted and spent the next three years working at the practice.

It was during this time that I decided to take a job in a veterinary practice. I can never say I was completely passionate, but it was something I carried on with regardless. Obviously, it is extremely hard to obtain a place in a veterinary degree, but nevertheless, I took a load of ‘difficult’ AS subjects, that had me completely swamped. I had a hard time at home due to a family member being seriously ill, and my grades started to slip. I put up my hands and say I could have worked harder and that I had not revised effectively, but in the end, I was lead to disappointment on results day.

Guys, I know how it feels. You’ve gone a whole year learning about a number of subjects, but it seems like it was all for nothing. It’s like you’ve wasted your entire education, and you really do feel like throwing in the towel. You have to remember many things lead to the downfall of grades. Sometimes it’s things out of your control, and not that you weren’t working hard enough (although sometimes it’s good to admit that’s the case).

On the day of results, my still ill relative was given the all clear, and that was better news than some letters on a piece of purple paper. At that point, I didn’t care what was inside my white envelope. The real news I’d been waiting for all year was finally received. My first piece of advice to you is that there are more important things. That may seem hard to believe, but on that August morning, I was just happy for my family’s safety.

That summer was a blur. While everything was fine with my family, I had trouble turning my attention to what I was going to do. It felt like I was back to square one, and I questioned whether I had the heart to try again. My friends were all progressing with their lives and I had tripped and fallen backwards. I was embarrassed, ashamed and demotivated. I spent the summer at home, leaving the veterinary practice behind.

I got back to school and went along with more literary subjects rather than science-based ones, and my goodness was that the best choice I made in my life. During my first year, I had taken English Literature & Language, and it was my highest grade on my first AS results day. There was another reason that I carried it on: I enjoyed it.

It is important to choose what you’re passionate about. It’s no good doing a course that you are going to hate for two years, for a degree that you might not like. I found myself naturally working harder, because I wanted it to work. I wasn’t going to have a repeat of last year.

As I got more passionate on my course, I got to know the subject more as well. I’m in a position now where I write creatively, read more and have a stable blog. It’s important to be happy, because that’s half the battle won.

Last week, it came to my results. I went in, grabbed the envelope and walked into a quiet place in the corridor. Unlike last year, I knew had done better, and I wasn’t afraid to open it. The thing is, I didn’t realise how well I had done. Suddenly, everything was back on track. Everything had clicked into place beautifully. I was happy.

When I went back into the main hall, where the teachers all were, they all said pretty much the same thing:

“You made a good choice last year.”

My advice to those who think they have bad grades: it is not the end of the world. You think the whole world is over and it is against you. Good. Get back up and show the world what you are capable of. Make your choices count. Learn from your mistakes. Do something that makes you happy. Find your drive. Don’t be afraid to take big risks. Take a step back if needed. There are other things more important that grades.

In the end, bad grades are just another obstacle. Don’t shy away from them, don’t just stare, don’t even sidestep around.

Charge right at them and leave them in tatters behind you.

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better. – Samuel Beckett