• Jaimie Wilsher

Why Exam Grades Aren't Everything

I’m currently 20 years old, and have come to terms with my school grades and how things went for me. I’ve seen quite a lot recently on the current situation with covid-19 (which I won't be speaking about as I know this is a sensitive topic for a lot of people, so don’t worry about that being mentioned again), and I know that those that should have been sitting their GCSE exams must be having very mixed feelings about it all right now.

Back in 2016, I was due to take my GCSE exams. Prior to this I had chosen the following subjects to take;

Maths, English Lit, English Lang, Chemistry, Biology, Physics, History, Spanish, Art.

I loved Art in particular, and got through quite a lot of my coursework pretty fast. I was predicted high grades for each of these subjects, A’s and B’s over them all. I decided to drop Spanish due to my anxiety. I was pretty good with the writing, reading and listening areas, but when it came to speaking I froze and, due to anxiety, would panic, cry and sometimes break down in a classroom full of people, which I was always so embarrassed by. I decided it wasn’t worth it, and that I was going to focus more on the other subjects, which was all agreed and sorted.

Unfortunately, at the beginning of my GCSE year at school, my mental health slipped. I was doing much worse than ever, school was something I dreaded going to, and I used to pretend I was physically sick quite a lot to get out of going in. I also spent a lot of time in separate classrooms to everyone else, where there were much less people, and I could take breaks from things if I needed to, which helped quite a lot. After a while, my mental state got so bad that I just didn’t attend at all. Months went by, I was doing some work from home, and I hadn’t realised how quickly the exams had come around.

I missed out on quite a lot of coursework which brought my overall grades down by a lot. I had to miss out on getting graded whatsoever for my Art, as even though I had completed the coursework, I had missed the exams and so I just couldn’t be given anything for this.

As I mentioned before, I was originally set to do Chemistry, Physics and Biology for three different GCSE grades. This was also changed due to my coursework and I was moved to a general ‘science’ exam for my GCSEs instead. History was also dropped for me too, because of the time missed from lessons there. I was down to 4 possible grades; Maths, Science, English Lang and English Lit. It was hard, and I had missed a few months of school.

When GCSE exams came around, I was able to take mine in a separate room, along with some other students with similar issues, or additional needs etc. I remember being absolutely terrified, worrying about my future, if I even would have one after this. I remember being so angry and hating mental health; feeling as though it had ruined my life, which is a feeling I’ve had hundreds of times. When it came to one of my English exams, I remember opening the paper and realising that HALF of the exam was based off of answering questions and writing about a book that I had never read before, and at this point, I wanted to give up. I tried answering the best I could under the situation, but I remember being so frustrated with myself for letting it get to this point. I had done so well all through school – flashing back to when I moved schools at 7 years old; I had to be assessed for my reading age which they coded in colours. I remember the teacher telling me I was destined for great things, and how clever I was – I could read the last book they had perfectly, and I remember being so proud of myself, and so happy with what the teacher had told me. Thinking that I’d become successful, and do well. During this exam in particular, it felt like it was going to go the complete opposite way for me and I hated everything at that point.

Going into school to receive my GCSE results was one of the worst things. I knew that everyone getting high grades would be showing them off – as they should; of course they should be proud of myself. But to me, I just kept thinking “that could have been me… I won’t make anything of my life… why me?” and I was jealous of them. I refused to open my results even though everyone was asking me. I kept the envelope held so tightly right up to my chest and I never wanted to read what was said inside. I went up one last time to see my English teacher. I was at this school for 5 years in total, and she was my first English teacher I had at that school, as well as the last. She was so lovely and understanding, and I wouldn’t have been anywhere near as positive as I was if it wasn’t for her, which I appreciate so so much even to this day.

She managed to persuade me to open my results with her, and I hid them from everyone else. I physically felt my heart sink. At this moment in time I felt like my life was over, honestly. They weren’t the worst grades, and I don’t want it to come across as ungrateful in the slightest, but back then it felt like the most important thing in the world. Like every single lesson I’d ever sat in over my entire life was for nothing, because I wouldn’t get anywhere. I was so angry, hurt, frustrated, upset and just so many other feelings rolled into one.

Before receiving my results, I had been accepted to college to study Animal Welfare as, since we got Tink – one of the best things to ever come into my life, and who I 100% couldn’t have got through it without (more on this here) – I wanted to work with dogs. Luckily, I had received the right grades to get onto the course, so I was okay with that, but it was still such a shame to see those particular letters on the slip. To feel like all of my hard work over so many years was all for nothing.

Fast-forwarding to my first, and only, week at college and things weren’t much better for me mentally. I wasn’t coping there at all, I just wasn’t in the right headspace for it, and things were just getting worse and worse for me. Throughout my first week there, I was admitted for my first time to a psychiatric ward, which is a whole different story.

Between then and now, I managed to retake a similar exam to my English, and I was able to get a pass in that subject, meaning I had both Maths and English grades. I’ve had multiple inpatient admissions in the past few years, and I’m feeling at the moment like I’m doing okay, and so I wanted to share my story with this.

Work-wise, I’m not currently doing anything, really. By this, I mean I’ve obviously got this blog which I’m hoping will become something special really soon (fingers crossed!) as well as my online craft store that I’ll be launching in the very near future too! Neither of which I needed any GCSE’s to be doing, and I’m pretty happy with how my life is going right now.

The main point in me sharing this with you all, as well as getting to know me a little better, knowing a bit more behind the owner of the blog etc., is to let you know that no matter what happens with your exams, no matter the issues that could arise, whether it be a health issue, something personal that is preventing you to do as well as you’d hoped, or just the worry of everything, I wanted to let you know that from personal experience, that it isn’t the end of the world, as much as it may seem as though it is. There are so many opportunities out there, most of which you probably aren’t even aware of yet, and some that you might not be for years! Even if things don’t go the way that you hoped, there is always the chance to change it, or take life in different directions.

You never know what could happen, and as difficult as it is and as cliché as it probably sounds; stay positive! I wish I had. I wish I hadn’t spent so long dwelling on this, beating myself up about something I couldn’t prevent, and took a little more care of myself when I was feeling so low.

Your life is NOT over, it’s only just beginning.

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