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The wait for exam results is nearly over

PUBLISHED: 05:00 15 August 2018

For some, joy, for others, bitter disappointment. Picture: Chris Ryan/Getty Images

For some, joy, for others, bitter disappointment. Picture: Chris Ryan/Getty Images

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Exam glory or disappointment? As students receive their A-level and GSCE grades, here’s a bit of perspective.

Simon Cowell did not score huge academic success but made his way to the top of showbiz by working his way up. Picture: Joe Giddens/PASimon Cowell did not score huge academic success but made his way to the top of showbiz by working his way up. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA

It can be stressful waiting for A level or GCSE results.

Students are encouraged to plan what happens next but the success or otherwise of these plans can depend on the grades they achieve. They may need As at A level to get the university place they have set their hearts on or perhaps five or six A-C grades at GCSE to carry on to A levels.

For A levels, crunch day is tomorrow, August 16, with GCSE results out next week, on Thursday, August 23.

I will come clean straight away. I didn’t do as well as I should have done. I got eight out of nine O levels (the ancient pre-cursors of GCSEs) but my grades were not great. Pass grades were one to six and I got three fives and a six. At A level, I scraped through political history with an E (the bottom pass grade) and did a bit better in English and economics.

When he was at school, teachers did not rate the academic abilities of Nobel-prize-winning physicist Albert Einstein. Picture: AP file photoWhen he was at school, teachers did not rate the academic abilities of Nobel-prize-winning physicist Albert Einstein. Picture: AP file photo

But now, when I look back to when I was 16 and 18, I realise ,with the benefit of 45 years’ hindsight, that exam grades were not as life-changing as they seemed at the time. You’ll have to trust me on this one, but they are not as momentous as they may appear. Academically-minded people will go on to do well at university (I’m not and I didn’t) but for the majority of others, the world does not stop being one’s oyster on account of a few below-average exam performances. Don’t take my word for it. Here are some of the people who did okay despite, reportedly, less than outstanding academic results. (source: theeducator.com)

 Business magnate, media personality, politician and political adviser Alan Sugar left school at 16 with no qualifications but, apparently, already earning more than his dad! Lord Sugar is reckoned to be worth in the region of £1 billion. He did all right.

 Nobel prize winner in physics (1921) Albert Einstein, who was dyslexic, was not a fan of formal education. His teachers thought him a poor student and wondered if he might be mentally retarded. He went on to become one of the most famous scientists of all time and a professor at Princeton.

 Simon Cowell left school with two O levels but also got a third GCE at college. He worked his way up from a job in the mail room at a record company. He may get on people’s nerves on The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent but you have to admire his tenacity. Cowell has definitely got talent.

Entrepreneur, businessman, apprentice-hirer and multi-millionaire Lord Sugar didn't stay on at school. Picture: EEDAEntrepreneur, businessman, apprentice-hirer and multi-millionaire Lord Sugar didn't stay on at school. Picture: EEDA

You might say, these were the lucky ones but you could also argue that academic qualifications are great but success is also about hard work, creativity, having the right people around you, talent, determination and, perhaps to have an ultimate goal in your sights. In many cases, education can help with all of those. For every Dick Whittington who bundles up his belongings, heads to the city where he believes the streets are paved with gold and ends up thrice Lord Mayor of London, there are hundreds who do not have such good fortune.

Website thebalancecareers.com says: “Dropping out of high school is not a wise choice, even if it sometimes is necessary due to extenuating circumstances. The vast majority of students who do drop out never become rich or famous, and are statistically unlikely to even ever make it very far in the business world. It then goes on, however, to list successful women who managed to hit it lucky despite not shining at school... although some resumed education at a later date.

Among the high school drop-outs it lists are Julie Andrews, musician Joan Armatrading, author 
Barbara Taylor Bradford and a host of others.

Teacher Jenny Yuill, writing in The Independent, last year, says that for many, waiting for results will have been worth it as they get fantastic results but for others there will be “disappointment and uncertainty and it is to those students in particular I want to say that, without belittling your understandable upset, it really doesn’t matter; this does not define you. However bad things may seem right now this will not destroy your future and it is very likely that today has set you on a path for great things ahead. Or, indeed, the many other days in your life totally aside from this one will set you on that path.”

For use in UK, Ireland or Benelux countries only 

BBC handout photo of musician Joan Armatrading who was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday April 27, 2016. See PA story SHOWBIZ Folk Awards. Photo credit should read: Jamie Simonds/BBC/PA Wire

NOTE TO EDITORS: Not for use more than 21 days after issue. You may use this picture without charge only for the purpose of publicising or reporting on current BBC programming, personnel or other BBC output or activity within 21 days of issue. Any use after that time MUST be cleared through BBC Picture Publicity. Please credit the image to the BBC and any named photographer or independent programme maker, as described in the caption.For use in UK, Ireland or Benelux countries only BBC handout photo of musician Joan Armatrading who was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday April 27, 2016. See PA story SHOWBIZ Folk Awards. Photo credit should read: Jamie Simonds/BBC/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: Not for use more than 21 days after issue. You may use this picture without charge only for the purpose of publicising or reporting on current BBC programming, personnel or other BBC output or activity within 21 days of issue. Any use after that time MUST be cleared through BBC Picture Publicity. Please credit the image to the BBC and any named photographer or independent programme maker, as described in the caption.

What defines us is who we are, not exam grades.

 The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) helpline number 0800 100 900 opened for students in Scotland on August 7 and opens for students in the rest of the UK on August 16, the day A Level results are issued and closes on August 30 following GCSE results day. Follow-on advice will be available from The National Careers Service after the 30 August.

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