Opinion: A race without a final sprint

Abubakar Finiin's mock exams did not reflect his ability.

Abubakar Finiin's mock exams did not reflect his ability. - Credit: Archant

As the coronavirus lockdown continues, students across the country impatiently wait for their grades despite the cancellation of exams.

When Boris Johnson announced that all schools would close down until further notice, millions of pupils nationwide were likely dancing with joy, myself included. My jubilation was enhanced when it was announced that summer exams would be cancelled. I wanted to fling my revision notes into the air and break into a dance of liberation: no more stress, deadlines, homework - I was ecstatic. However, this ecstasy quickly turned into uncertainty, and then gradually mutated into fear.

It took a further two suspenseful days until Gavin Williamson gave further clarification on how exam grades would be awarded. Grades will be calculated by a combination of teacher input by assigning students in a rudimentary ranking system based on mock/class assessments, and prior attainment.

This news was particularly nerve-wracking for Year 13 pupils whose grades are contingent to university places.

There are fears that considering mock exams inhibits potential. Indeed mine are certainly not reflective of my ability, and this sentiment has been echoed by many of my peers. A mock assessment in a classroom does not put you in the right mindset compared to an official paper in an exam hall when your future is at stake.

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For me, A-levels are very similar to a marathon: a two-year race that requires you to pace yourself before the final stretch (exam period) in which you evoke your remaining energy to get the best result. With exams cancelled, students’ skills are being judged by a race without a final sprint, which is unfair for those, like myself, who were reserving energy for an anticipated final push.

Due to the severity of the coronavirus pandemic, I agree with the government’s decision to cancel summer exams.

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However, the strategy chosen to calculate grades is inherently problematic, disproportionately affects those from disadvantaged backgrounds, and hinders student’s potential.

When students open their envelopes this July, the overused quote that “an exam result on a piece of paper does not reflect who you are” will never been more relevant.

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