Schrödinger’s Exams

Hi Fin,

Tomorrow you have you first GCSE exam. In forty-two days they all will be over.

There are many things people will tell you about the exams you are about to take, ranging from “They’re the hardest exams you’ll ever take” all the way to “It doesn’t matter how well you do in them.” The reality is simple to state yet quite difficult to take in at this stage. The reality is that there is a grain of truth in all the things people say about GCSEs.

They may seem the hardest because they’re the first exams you’ve taken that mean so much. Some will feel harder because you don’t like the subject, or you aren’t as prepared as you would like to be. Others will seem easy for the opposite of those reasons. In ten years time it might not matter how well you did in the exams because of the work you do or other qualifications you have. All I know is that every job I’ve ever applied for I have had to list the O-Levels I got nearly <gulp> forty years ago. So they stick with you.

They are the Schrödinger’s cat of exams. Both important and unimportant, both difficult and easy, useful and useless, depending on when they are looked at, who is looking them and why they are looking. That’s all very easy for an old man to say and none of this is intended to underestimate the impact these exams have had, are having and will have on your life.

I suppose my point in saying this is that you should listen to all the things people say and then try and make sense of it not now, but as you go through life. All those statements about GCSEs will be true for you at some stage. But, to steal a well know saying, this isn’t the end. It’s not even the beginning of the end. It is the end of the beginning. In the middle of the exam period you turn sixteen (small party). Soon you’ll be going to college and the efforts of the past couple of years will seem like they were in the dim and distant past. There’ll be new friends to get to know, new things to learn and new challenges to rise to. But now, now is the time to concentrate on the exams themselves and put aside all the other stuff.

For now, all I really want to say to you are two things.

The first is a piece of advice. You are where you are. You have worked hard and have taken all the advice you have been given. Don’t start to second-guess anything you have (or have not) done in the preparation you have made for these exams. You can’t change anything that happened yesterday. I’ll say the thing I always tell you – “You can only change what happens next.”

The second thing is the simplest one. I know you want to do well in these exams. And because you want that, so do I. But there’s only one thing I can tell you about them that I know is the one hundred per cent, unassailable truth. And it’s this. However well you do it won’t change how proud of you your mum and I are. It won’t change how much we love you. And it won’t change you from being the wonderful person you are.

So smile, go into that hall, sit down, and give every day your best effort.

And in 42 days time we’re gonna party like it’s 1999!