I go through the open doors into the silent eerie hall, I walk over to my seat and shakily take it, checking my pockets repeatedly for forbidden items that I know I do not posses. I put my pens and water on my desk, followed by the obligatory glasses clean. The ticking of the clock’s second hand echoes in my head as if it were a death bell tolling, warning me the time is near. Grey voices in the background telling me things I ought to listen to, but all that’s going round my head is the thumping of my heart beat, the rush of blood as my breathing quickens, the feeling of the hairs on the back of my neck standing to attention. It’s time. I turn over the scratchy paper, absorb the reality of the situation, and write. Two hours of stress, pain and an uncomfortable silence in which everyone knows to not ask for any respite. Is it worth it?
Is that amount of pressure worth a single letter on a piece of paper? Is it worth acceptance into an institute that charges £9,000 a year just for knowledge? Ultimately you don’t need these results to be happy, or to have a life that you should be proud of. Yes, certain jobs require degrees such as medicine, or veterinary sciences, and to get a good degree you need to go to a good uni, and to get into a good uni you need good exam results. But should the results define us in the way that they do?
The number of people experiencing severe exam stress is ridiculous, and it’s climbing. There’s a reason young people’s mental health on the whole is the worst it has ever been, and this pressure put on us by schools is most definitely a contributing factor. Being told by authority figures that unless you get consistent top grades you aren’t going to succeed in life shouldn’t be allowed, because that belief is so often internalised resulting in teens crying through exam months, having nervous break downs on results day, and ultimately having a lowered self worth that is based upon a set of letters. That’s without even considering that exams becoming more and more a test of one’s long term memory rather than their ability to critically think about what they have been taught and put it into useful, applicable, knowledge. I know this isn’t something that is likely to change, but it just needs to be said that if you don’t get straight As you still have value and worth, and that you’re so much more than what you get at GCSE, A-Level, or even your degree. Qualities like kindness, bravery and thoughtfulness are far more important really, and I think schools should focus on developing those characteristics, because that’s what the world needs. It doesn’t need a bunch of fear motivated brain-vomiters, it needs kind hearted people that want to make the world a better place.