King Edward VI School student Emma Crossley, age 17, reflects on the stresses and strains of exam season
If you listen carefully, you can hear it.
The shuffling of hundreds of feet towards sports halls which once reverberated to the yelps and crashes of a thousand games of dodgeball.
The mutter of a thousand students, repeating over and over: “Osmosis is a process by which molecules pass through a semi-permeable membrane from areas of lower concentration to areas of higher concentration, thus equalising the concentration.” (Or something like that.)
And ‘with ape-like fury, Mr Hyde trampled his victim’. Yes, everyone, it is exam time. Not just for university students, not just for those academic enough to go to university by passing A-levels. Exam time for everyone. When, after 11 years of school, we all make that shuffling into a warm hall still pervaded by the stale whiff of basketball lessons and badminton shoes. No matter what we go on to do in life, whether or not this is our final big experience of academic exams, it is something that the huge majority of people in this country have in common. The GCSE exams – though my dad says that, in the Bury Free Press, I should also mention something called O-levels. And possibly the School Certificate, though don’t ask me any more about that.
Exams are something we all go through and can probably still remember. Somewhere in an envelope, in a drawer, you still have your results. Even more interesting, you can probably remember what you got in every subject.
Exams affect everyone. They clearly concern current Year 11 students, with their heaps of flashcards.
Exams also rattle teachers. There is apparently a wrenching feeling in the gut as their students file into the hall. Stress, they say, is caused when we are out of control. So imagine watching all the people you have taught for several years sitting in rows, ready to open an exam paper. You can do no more. You can say no more. You have taught to the best of your ability, but what will the questions be and how will they cope? A ghastly lack of control.
To all those people currently affected by this industrial scale stress, I can offer a few crumbs of comfort.
First, you students, it is very sunny outside as I write. Last year, when I did my GCSEs, it was also sunny, and no doubt it was the same right back to what older folks call ‘O-levels’. With our new understanding of the power of UV light, you at least are spending that time inside, revising and sitting exams.
Second, as the weather warms up, families like to get together to eat charred sausages and argue in gardens after one to many glasses of Aldi shiraz. You now have a foolproof excuse to absent yourself from any family ‘do’ you like until well into June.
And last, you have, laid out in front of you, like the longest beach on the longest summer’s day, stretching down to the bluest ocean, what might be the longest holiday of your life. Just think of that.