The Best of Times

The last week has been tough. And I’m sure I’m not alone. The vast majority of A-Level exams start tomorrow for the next two weeks, after a one week respite (if you can call it that) of frantic revision and studying. That’s the idea, at least. For many, the next two weeks will decide what they do for the next year, and most likely the rest of their lives. No pressure, right?

There’s no denying that it’s difficult. Cast your mind back two years (or however long) and you’re sitting there stressing over your GCSE’s, you’ll hear everyone saying “They’re easy”/”You’ll walk them”/”Piece of piss”. And they’re right. You watch the Year 11’s getting all stressed out, and you can completely understand where everyone older than you was coming from back then. They were incredibly easy, at least relatively. You won’t hear that from anyone about A-Levels though.

You won’t hear undergraduates mocking you about how easy A-Levels were. You won’t hear teachers or lecturers do it, either. They know, perhaps more so than you, that A-Levels can be tricky. You might hear them say “You’ll never work harder in your life”, or even just silently agree with your complaints. That’s my experience, at least. I looked over past papers, over my notes, and I came to realise just how much work needed to be done. Seeing as my exams start tomorrow, I’d like to think I’m nearly ready. If I’m not, there isn’t much I can do about it, it’s far too close to make a difference.

I felt a bit burnt out this morning. I knew I needed to finish up with some work, but I just felt so stressed. I could barely concentrate. There was no point in trying to work like that, so I started playing a game. Surely, the satisfaction of running around a virtual world firing machine guns and rockets at people would just melt the stress away. I didn’t account for the fact that everyone else playing wasn’t in the same state of mind and would brutally capitalise on my lack of concentration. After three rounds I left more stressed than when I began. So much for that idea. No matter, YouTube would provide some mellow music that would solve everything. And it did, for about two minutes until I hit the stream buffer. I don’t think there can be anything more irritating than music interrupted by streaming every 30seconds. This clearly wasn’t working, and my stress levels weren’t getting any better. I resorted to writing this while listening to the radio. I now feel at ease, and maybe this afternoon will lead on to peaceful, productive working.

One thing I thought about, though, with all of the exam stress it’s not so much the fear of working but the expectation that comes along with it. After all, in the course of conversation with friends and relatives you’ve no doubt talked about how you want to go to university, and this has probably followed on to where you’d like to go and what grades you need etc. The honest truth is that Universities care more about what you think you’re going to get in your A-Levels than who you are and what you’re like as a person. Three letters on your piece of paper will say more about you to the admissions tutors than anything else. That’s why getting your three letters becomes the most important thing in your life. It’s not so much the A-levels that decide your life, it’s the three letters that come with them. By telling everyone, including people you’ve probably never met, you’ve given yourself an awful lot of expectation to live up to. It’s a big thing to deal with and when you’re trying your best to revise it certainly isn’t helpful, particularly if you’re constantly reminded of it.

Mark Twain once said “There are basically two types of people. People who accomplish things, and people who claim to have accomplished things. The first group is less crowded”. It’s only two more weeks and then you could be the type of person who accomplishes things. I sure hope I do.

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