"You may turn over your papers now!”
Thousands of youngsters across the country will have heard those words (or something
like them) at some time today – or will be hearing them in the coming days. The very words will provoke, at best, feelings of trepidation and, at worst, a strong desire to run screaming from the room. In short, we are now in Exam
Season, GCSEs, AS-Levels and A-Levels for the sitting of. I am so glad I am not sixteen or seventeen any more.
Katie, my eldest grand-daughter, is seventeen
and Jack, my eldest grandson, is sixteen - and they are just two of the thousands. They have been working their proverbial socks off for months on end and deserve to do well – but knowing that doesn’t stop the butterflies in the stomach, that sick
feeling of wondering whether you will even be able to remember your own name in order to write it at the top of your exam papers. Yesterday we realised that, despite having checked the date with their mothers, we had failed to send either grandchild a Good
Luck card. I was distraught. We compromised by sending Jack an e-card which was better than nothing though I think our choice was a bit girly. Jack is a cat lover, so I thought an e-card depicting cats would be appropriate. I am sure, given time to peruse
all the possible catty cards, I would have been able to find the perfect one – but Mr B was keen that I make my choice quickly and wasn’t prepared to wade through every possible missive. He is the same on the rare occasions we shop for my clothes
together – I daren’t say I quite like something because, before I know it, he will be at the counter, handing over the cash and getting our purchase wrapped. Today I paid a visit to the newsagents and two “proper” cards are winging
their way to their deserving recipients even as I write.
Parents suffer from Exam Fever too. Living for so long with revision timetables, past papers and
stressed out teens is enough to make any parent neurotic. Jack's mother, the Youngest of the Darling Daughters (who could easily win the Supportive Parent Prize, if there were such an award) tells me she had a dream last night. She dreamt that
she was sitting an English exam and had an hour to complete two tasks. So far, so normal. However for the first task she was given a huge novel, written in French, which she had never set eyes on before and on which she had to write an essay, while for the
second task she had to build a model. Needless to say, she failed the exam though all around the examination room, more clued-up classmates were building amazing models and scribbling long, learned essays – all in half an hour. At least her
story made Jack laugh this morning before he set off for school and the dreaded Examination Room.
I have sat lots of exams in my time, quite a few in adulthood.
It may seem strange to say that I have a favourite memory, but I think you will understand when I explain. The occasion was a business exam, the first exam I had taken since leaving school and I was quaking in my boots as I tried to settle myself down
at an unfamiliar desk in the hall of the local college. As the clock on the wall ticked round to the Hour of Reckoning, the Exam Invigilator claimed our attention. Not, as might have been expected, to reel off a list of rules and regulations, to discuss
arrangements for Loo Trips or to issue dire warnings about misbehaviour.
“I want to tell you all how much I admire you,” he began, “None of you need to be here; you are here because
you have chosen to follow this path, to test yourself out, to demonstrate what you have learnt. You should all be very proud of yourselves.” You have no idea how much that simple statement of faith in us lifted our quaking hearts. I know I, for
one, turned over my exam paper, not in dread, but feeling strangely and extraordinarily good about myself. It made all the difference to the way I scanned those all-important questions on the paper in front of me. Would that all exam invigilators were so caring
and so intuitive.
So, here is the Daily Blog’s message to Katie, Jack and to all the other lads and lasses who read my random ramblings (I am always really
chuffed when I find that the Daily Blog’s appeal stretches across the generations) and who are sitting exams over the coming weeks:
Be proud of yourselves
for all the hard work which has led to today. Do your best – nobody can do more. I am full of admiration for you. Your reward, when all the exams are over, will be a long, hot summer stretching ahead, free of worry at least for a little while.
You may turn your papers over – NOW!