Spending as much time as I do in the student bubble, GCSEs seem like a lifetime ago. Only on the rare occasion that I have to make the painful 8:30am trawl to campus for a lecture do I remember, as I join the line to wait for the lollipop lady – something that happens for thousands of little people every day.
From Monday to Friday, they’re made to get up early, wear an itchy uniform, sit in a stuffy classroom for six hours a day and learn up to ten subjects all at once.
For these people, GCSEs are a scary reality looming at the end of their time at school, which they’d much rather spend sleeping, playing video games or hanging around outside McDonalds. Well, that was my opinion at the time anyway.
The pressure on GCSE achievement can be huge. I recall spending up to seven hours a day outside of school time reading books and notes, highlighting until the paper tore and the room started spinning. The dining room table still bears its fluorescent scars.
This went on for weeks – I remember spending every night trying to meet the cruel demands of my self-inflicted revision schedule that included the number of subjects and chapters that needed to be covered each day. My Microsoft Excel colour-coding skills might have improved but my sanity did not.
Looking back, this was the most intense revision I’ve ever done in my life – college was far more relaxed and at university, well, I can’t say I’ve done more than a week of intense cramming for any exam I’ve had to take.
Now at university, being made to read ancient texts and get my head around whether the chair I’m sitting on actually exists (Philosophy student problems) it’s difficult to know whether getting that shiny line of GCSE results really helped me in any way. I suppose the question I’m really asking is, was giving up my social life and sanity worth it all those years ago?
Waste of time?
I’d like to think it was, but it didn’t set out my path at college or university. Your GCSE results can determine the course you get into, so it’s very important that you do as well as you can, but once you’re doing the course you want, the slate is wiped clean: the number of A* GCSEs you get at school will have no bearing on how many A*s you want rack up at college.
In a meeting with a careers advisor a few weeks ago, my CV was torn to metaphorical shreds as she told me that listing each of my GCSE subjects was a waste of space and time: employers want to know your grades and they want to know you got English and Maths. They don’t care if you did Religious Studies or History, you should focus on what you’re currently doing and not dedicate a huge chunk of it to a list of basic subjects you studied years and years ago.
This kind of attitude can inspire a sense of not caring in university students. With GCSE results being dished out this week, many of us will snigger at the insignificance of it all.
When it comes down to it, however, GCSEs are important. Employers from every line of work will prefer you to have passed English and Maths at the very least and getting a good set does give school leavers the confidence to go on to achieve more.
So, if you happen to be passing a school this week where students are coming out dancing or teary-eyed clutching scary white envelopes, don’t smirk at them. Think back to the nerves your first set of big exams inspired in you and appreciate that GCSEs will always have a place in your heart…and on your CV!
What do you think? Do you still use your GCSE grades? Did they help you with future studies and/or employment? Have your say in the comments section below.