As a teacher I am am well versed in exam stress, I have taught literally thousands of children and coached them through GCSE’s and AS and A Levels. I have been there in the moments they walk into the exam hall reciting names and studies they want to remember, I have been there in the seconds after the ‘pens down’ command is issued. As a teacher I stand and wait to find out what the questions were and I have been there on results day to celebrate and commiserate. I have been there when they ring Universities to see if they can still go to their chosen course. I have been there as they jump about realising their hard work and determination has paid off.
Yet nothing prepared me to go through this as a parent.
It is hard.
It is so hard watching your child ride this roller-coaster.
Did you know that there are now unofficial mark schemes that follow an exam. Yesterday was Maths and twitter nearly exploded after the exam with discussions about how it went. When I was at school, this discussion took place in the school corridors with your friends, now it is across social media with the use of hashtags and causes more anxiety and throws in some humour.
Tweets like ‘the only number I got right was my candidate number’ or ‘The unofficial mark scheme makes me want to cry in a dark room’ and ‘the chances of me passing that exam are about the same as Angie having enough varnish to clean her floor ‘are funny but also a cruel twist on the exams our children are taking. The post exam analysis is now so great that within just a few hours there were unofficial mark schemes available where you can see what the correct answers are. This adds fuel to the fire and places more stress on those already having a bad day.
Revision for exams now relies heavily on past papers, these past papers are available for all at the click of the internet. Past papers, mark schemes and examiners reports are all tools that the children use. Before I sat the exams, which was only in the 90’s, I had seen just one or two past examples, revision was note taking and whereas the internet has made revision more accessible and more specific but what happens when the paper on the day doesn’t reflect the past few years papers. Are our children now relying too much on what has happened before?
Is that now what education is, we test and test our children. Many shout that the exams are easier now – well they are not. Just a brief look at yesterdays paper is probably enough to prove that. Today is English and one of the poems is the same poem I studied for A Level English – metaphysical poetry anyone! They need to know ten poems today plus being presented with an unseen one.
We are half way through the GCSE exam season and the pressure has been immense. As a parent it has been harder than I anticipated. The trial by internet has certainly had an impact and I had no idea that it even existed in this form. The internet has given many things but I would not want to be a student in this day and age. It makes it hard to switch off and there is certainly more pressure than I ever encountered.