(after being unsure yesterday and all)
Results Day has happened: while the day is still continuing as days tend to do, the ‘results’ part is over and I, thanks for asking, got an A* in English Literature and two As in History and Geography, and will now be heading off to UCL in late September to study English. I’m also aware that Results Day sucked for some people, with perplexingly lower numbers of passes this year (despite more A*s overall?), so this isn’t going to be a ‘You Suck, I’m Awesome!’ sort of post; my cynicism is far to valuable to be wasted on anything as important as actual academic achievement.
Yesterday, I called the day before Results Day ‘The last day of innocence’ (although it was probably only the last morning of innocence as everybody else I know found out their grades through UCAS that afternoon, reducing the actual collecting of results to little more than a photographed formality), which I still reckon is true; regardless of how the results went, we’ve now all gone through the process of getting them in a meaningful way – your year five spelling bee award is rather incomparable.
There is an idea that mistakes allow learning and improvement to take place, but I’d say this idea is limited; my results were a success, but I can still learn from them, not just as an ambitious prick who wants three A*s instead of one, but in terms of learning how a successful outcome is achieved. Since the relative success of my GCSEs (eight A*s and three As), I’ve used similar methods of revision, both throughout the year and before exams, and have ended up with four As at A-level, those awesome A2 grades, and a place at UCL; my mistakes prior to these examples taught me what not to do, while these successes taught me what to do. And we can all learn from these results, regardless of whether or not our parents now owe us alcohol/cars/love and acceptance as a result of our exam outcomes.
Results Day is always weird for me, then, as it is a single day that represents the culmination of several months (or even years) or work, and it’s easy to treat one’s exam results as such, while it is more likely that you failed because of a systematic problem with your revision or study methods, not because you happened to have the sniffles on the day of your first exam. It’s the same reason that exams and grades annoy me themselves, that my essay-writing, poetry-reading, literacy-appreciating and novel-comprehending abilities, as well as my overall interest in English, is summarised in a single letter (obvious logistical and administrative needs aside).
This is why it’s important to consider your successes or failures in context – I got an A* in English, but I’m no Chaucer, and you might have got a C, but you’re hardly a lost cause. Exams test how well you can do those exams, not how well you know the academic study they claim to represent, so don’t get too carried away whatever your results. I like to consider exams as a process, whereby study goes in at the beginning and grades come out at the end, rather than an evaluation of how good I’d be at a university course, and so respond to it accordingly: a C means my methods of revising failed, not me as a person, and an A means they worked.
But I’m not here to tell you how to react to the events in your life – leave that for borderline fictional omnipotent entities on clouds with fetishes for divine instructions more cryptic than a particularly difficult Times crossword – that’s your job. An idea that we can all agree with, regardless of our success or failure in these exams, however, is that we’ve done them, and whether the tears or celebratory booze are flowing, we can all learn from this – after all, school is meant to prepare you how to be an adult, and not just in terms of working out your income tax.