E is for Exam: Life is Not an Exam

Exams! Urgh, does that word bring you out in a cold sweat? Perhaps you’re a teen who’s working towards your school qualifications or a graduate studying at university. But, if you ask parents about their memories of school exams, many will not have fond memories either. 

Teens all over the country sit their GCSE exams at the end of year 11. So, after spending years at school, that day finally arrives when a couple of hours is going to determine how good a student has remembered years’ worth of study. That’s right, a two-year GCSE comes down to how well you’ve remembered some facts on a particular topic.

How does this shape the study mindset?

Most students will say, “I’m glad that’s over!” at the end of an exam, but the question is, what did they learn?

We have a friend who recently completed an MSc in Sports Science; as a mature student, her goal was to seek a career in physiotherapy. Being a physio means you need to know a lot about the human anatomy and possess many other skills, including the ability to connect with people and problem-solve. So, to feel confident in doing the job, you would want to learn and understand everything you are taught in your university course, right?

The aspect that really struck our friend was the number of younger students who would ask if a lecture topic will be included in the exam. If the lecturer said it probably wasn’t, then the students generally wouldn’t write that information down or properly study it.

Biiiiiiggggg mistake!

Studying for this qualification costs around £9,000 a year, and a master’s course is typically 1 or 2 years long. So overall, if we add up the cost of the course with accommodation, food, and extracurricular activities, it will cost around £18,000 – £33,000, depending on the length of your master’s course and university location. Plus, you are putting loads and loads of time into it too.

So, if it costs this much, why would you invest that much money and time into something that would give you little in return? Instead, why not learn and take in everything the course offers? This way, you can get out everything you can from what you’ve paid for and truly understand what you are learning.

Life is not an exam

Imagine if a new driver took a driving test without any driving lessons. This would be incredibly dangerous for a start, but they wouldn’t learn things like how to operate the car, how to do manoeuvres or the laws of the roads from that one 40-minute test; this is why we have driving lessons to teach us all the principles. 

So, going back to our topic, life is not an exam but instead, it is a learning journey. 

In both examples above, the learning happens in the day-to-day study and lessons, not in the exam or test at the end. If you apply this to other qualifications such as GSCEs, A Levels, Apprenticeships etc, the journey is the most important part. It is always nice to get good grades, but you need to know that grades are not the most important part; the journey is!

Whatever stage of life you are at, it’s time to embrace your learning journey. Look at what habits you can create, what new skills you can learn and how you can embrace personal development and carve your future success. 

Life is an opportunity to learn.

To find out more on this topic…

Listen to our ‘E is for Exam’ podcast episode!

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