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I'm all in favour of exams - they teach the value of a bit of self-discipline and sacrifice - but, come on, the actual content is largely about as useful as an umbrella in Malaga in July

Friday, 16 June 2023, 16:12

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'It's one of the first laws of physics - you can't create cold, you can only take away heat."

The look of sheer disdain on my friend's face as he spoke was more suited to one I might have expected from the maître d' at a posh restaurant if I'd taken my shirt off during a dinner service.

We were sixteen and had just emerged from our 'O' level physics exam. One of the questions had asked how a refrigerator works and, not having the faintest idea - nor caring very much, to be honest - I'd written something about closing the door really, really tightly and watching a bit of TV (how do they work?) and, you know, just waiting around for a bit. Unsurprisingly, my chum achieved an A grade (only because there were no stars way back then) while I scraped through with a C for reasons that remain unclear to this day.

It's that time of year again. Fingernails are currently being bitten to within an inch of their lives as energy drink sales and anxiety levels soar to mind-boggling heights. But that's enough about the parents - spare a thought for the poor wee souls with the undeveloped cerebral cortexes and rampant Instagram addictions. Or is it Tik-Tok? Anyway, there they all are, forced to go cold turkey on the social media thing while simultaneously swotting up on the finer points of photosynthesis, why soldiers got trench foot in Ypres and whether or not Dickens's Scrooge might be seen as a sympathetic character in the round. It's bonkers. Don't get me wrong, I'm all in favour of exams - they teach the value of a bit of self-discipline and sacrifice - but, come on, the actual content is largely about as useful as an umbrella in Malaga in July.

The thing is, unless you want to be a doctor or a lawyer or something, it's not really worth the stress. Most people I know haven't used their qualifications at all in their chosen career path and for those that did, the majority would have been able to get where they are by now by other routes.

So, mum and dad, fret ye not. If young Milton and Cassandra don't achieve their expected grades, they have various options: 1) Weep and wail into the wee small hours of the morning convinced that all meaningful life is over; 2) Have another bash a bit later on; 3) Shrug their shoulders knowing they gave it their best shot and toddle off to enjoy the summer, trusting things will work out later with a bit of initiative and some hard work (which they will).

Just don't tell them any of this, though, because, as we've noted above, revision time keeps them away from Tik-Tok. Or is it Instagram?

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