GCSEs 2020: A student's perspective

Updated on 31 March 2020

From an early stage, GCSEs became a familiar concept to me after watching my older brother build up to the exams. When the time came to choose my subjects for GCSEs in Year 9, it became obvious that the truly important work was about to begin. At the time, we were oblivious to how important that work would actually be.

The concept of exams struck me with fear ever since I sat a few practice papers at the end of Year 7. However, I think I had just about calmed down around a fortnight ago when I realised all the content for my 11 subjects was complete and all there was left to do was to continue revising for just over a month.

“Countless hours of work dropped in seconds”

Then the news came that, due to the coronavirus pandemic, all UK schools would be closing for the majority of students (myself included) from Friday 20th March. I recall thinking the decision was sensible given the current climate. My school provided an endless supply of revision resources months ago for Year 11 students so I was just planning on carrying on with my study as thoroughly as possible.

I soon discovered that GCSEs and A-Levels were to be cancelled for this academic year, however. Slightly speechless and confused, I messaged my friends to try and consume the information. All of us had a similar reaction – not anger, not sadness, just nothing. We had all worked so hard – especially over the last two years – so we weren't worried about the results. We didn't really know how to respond. It felt like such an anti-climax. Countless hours of work and stress, just for it all to be dropped in seconds.

One of my friends then made a comment that none of us even acknowledged until after he said it. We were filled with so many other thoughts. We now realised we would only (quite likely) have two more days of school. Even now I've had them, I don't feel sad, not yet, because it doesn't feel over. So much happened so quickly that I haven't really processed it.

“A sensible decision but I am worried for a lot of students”

When I came into school the day after the announcement, the effect of the news on my teachers was clear. Many of them cried. I feel so much sympathy for them – every day, they are underappreciated and they have such an important role and overnight, their role became even more important as their judgement will have a large impact on our grades.

I'm not particularly worried for myself but I am worried for a lot of the students this year, as not everyone will have worked as consistently as my classmates. I hope that they are given really fair judgement despite what happened during the earlier stages of Years 10 and 11.

That being said, as long as unbiased, well-considered and fair judgement can be made, I think it is a sensible decision to have stopped the exams this year. It might even be a reasonable idea for years to come as I'm not sure it's right to put young people under so much stress at exam time.

“I will try to make every day as different as possible”

Now that I have so much time off, even more than I anticipated, as well as taking a break I have been advised to keep my brain active by studying the subjects that I am considering for A-Level. Being at home also gives me an opportunity to keep writing, read more and continue to learn, whether that be music or something academic.

I recognise that many people will face a battle with their mental health as a result of isolating indoors. For some (Year 11 students included), it could be for quite some time. We will all need to find ways to adapt our lives for a while.

Personally, I will try to keep as many doors open as possible and try to make every day as different as possible. I will continue to learn piano and guitar, talk to my friends, get through many puzzles, play football with my brother in the garden, watch movies, read – anything to keep things moving smoothly. That's what I would suggest to anyone, young or old – keep your days fresh and diverse.

Now that I am able to speak from experience, I encourage anyone who is studying currently to work hard from day one because whether an exam happens or not, that effort could really come into use.

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