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Cancelled exams in a year full of uncertainty

April 11, 2021  |  by Charlotte Linham & Imogen Kinrade

In recent weeks, the Island’s Department of Education made the announcement that exams would no longer take place this year. This announcement came after almost a year of uncertainty due to the pandemic and has likely impacted many of our young people in different ways.  

This news may have caused a lot of upset for some people who feel as though they’ve worked really hard for their exams and might have even missed out on social events because of them. It might even feel like all the energy and effort they put in is now worthless, and you might feel frustrated that you won’t ever know the grades you could have got. You might be worried about what comes next – whether that’s getting into sixth form or university, getting a job, or about having no idea what is next. You might also be one of those people who hadn’t started revising or working to get their grades just yet, and you’re worried how this will affect things.  

For some people, this may have come as good news. If you’re the type of person who dreads the atmosphere of such pressure-heavy environments, you may be feeling optimistic right now. Maybe you’re feeling relieved that your grade for the year won’t be determined by one hour, where you’re more worried about being stuck in a room with 100 of your peers, or whether or not you have a clear pencil case. If you’re someone who favours coursework over exams you might also be feeling positive, or more in control of your performance right now. Where there will be people feeling this overall sense of relief, there will be just as many feeling the exact opposite. This is a good time to check in on friends when you can, as this outcome could affect everyone differently. Your friends will likely be in a similar position to you, so they will be able to relate to what’s going on, and helping others can also boost our own wellbeing. 

However you feel right now, it’s completely understandable – if you are struggling, there are things we can do to help. Reframing our thoughts about it can help us cope if we’re feeling like our hard work is wasted or our results are somehow worth less – you’ve still learnt all the knowledge, and would have all the skills to sit the exams if you needed too, which will help you in your future. The exam was only one point on a journey – you’ve done so much to be proud of before it and will continue to do so without it. A grade is not our whole identity, and there is so much else to who you are as a person.  

Set small goals that are unrelated to exams – these might be things like finishing a book, trying a new hobby, exercising or scheduling in some relaxation time. You might want to research future options available to you to. Making time to take care of ourselves and do things we enjoy is particularly important now. These can also help us with our motivation; by giving ourselves things to accomplish, it adds to our sense of achievement, boosts our self-esteem and improves our wellbeing. If it helps, you can also start doing some of the work and revision you might have done over this time, so keep up with your revision or homework timetable where possible. You can also celebrate when you would have finished your exams, as this can help with our feelings of closure.  

It is likely some people will have concerns about how their grades will be determined, especially if this differs between schools. If you’re feeling uncomfortable with which pieces of your work are determining your grade, or who is making this decision, it is worth raising this with someone you trust. This could be a parent, family member, or member of staff from your school you feel comfortable discussing this with. If you’re struggling with motivation or your wellbeing over this time and you’re worried about it affecting your grade, try and make someone aware of how things are for you. 

If you are supporting a young person, have the conversation with them about how they’re feeling. Be completely honest about what you do and don’t know – for example, if a young person doesn’t know how their grades will be awarded, be honest if you don’t know, but tell them you can help them by making a plan of who they can ask. Provide them with encouragement about school and about the future.  

There is so much uncertainty around this time that it’s normal to feel a bit worried about what the future holds; if this is significantly impacting you and your life, speak to someone you trust who can help find you some support.  

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