In recent weeks, the need to close schools has become more and more apparent due to the significant rise in Covid cases. Those expecting to take final exams this summer have been told to instead prepare for an ‘alternative grading method’ which, for many schools, has not yet been specified.

The majority of students, particularly those in years 11 and 13 who would be sitting their GCSEs and A levels this summer, are now experiencing a huge amount of uncertainty and confusion as to how they will be assessed instead.

Will they have to sit exams from home? Might they be awarded their predicted grades? How will this affect their college/uni applications?

For many, this remains uncertain.

To gain a better understanding of how some of the students working amidst this are feeling, I have spoken to Stanley Shaw, a second year A level student at Southborough Sixth Form, about his experience.

In Stanley’s case, his Sixth Form has already decided that final exams will not be going ahead and students will instead be awarded teacher assessed grades. This means that his teachers will assess the work he has done so far and the work he will do in the coming months and grade him accordingly, taking mock exams into account as well. He says this is actually a ‘huge relief’ for him as it means he ‘avoids the stress of final exams’, which is a major thing that students struggle with each year.

However, this does not mean that the work stops here; despite having no exams to prepare for, Stanley says he is having to ‘work harder than ever’ because any piece of work he does could be used to grade his overall performance.

He says the most annoying thing about the situation is having to return to full-time online lessons, which make it ‘more difficult to concentrate and stay motivated’ and also loses him the benefits of being able to talk to teachers one-to-one for more specific help.

Regarding students’ university applications, Stanley implies that the effect will be different for everyone. Some students ‘perform better in non-exam conditions’ and therefore will likely benefit from this change in grading methods, however some students who ‘prefer exams’ will now ‘struggle hugely’.

As for Stanley, he ‘prefers not having exams to worry about’ because of the ‘extreme stress’ that comes with them, and if he continues to work hard he still expects to get the right grades for his dream university.

We can only hope that this doesn't last too long and the next year of students sitting exams can do so in the normal way.