A generation on since my mum found herself – a bit like a guinea pig – amidst the switch from the old O-Grade and Higher system to new Standard Grades and Revised Highers – my stress levels are rising as prelim time has come around again.
Curriculum for Excellence means that Highers and the new ‘National 5’ courses are now more compact than ever. Today, part of the deal of staying on for 5th and 6th year is that we sign up to a full timetable –gone are the days my parents describe where staying on at school could be a good way to delay the inevitable.
Like most of my peers, I am sitting 5 Highers and am told that the class time given for each subject is, in fact, not enough to complete the course in. Being in school most days until 5 pm is not only advised, or the exception, but the norm.
Prelims are a tricky concept. Unlike in our parents’ day, in terms of a student’s final grade, they mean very little and are essentially just a mock exam. The pressure, though, is piled on young people as prelims are treated like official exams with an exam hall, invigilators, and strict exam rules. This forces students to spend what feels like an unfeasible amount of time studying to achieve the best grade they can. The old appeal system – which allowed students to use their prelim result if they were to perform unexpectedly poorly in the final exam or could not make it at all – has been scrapped.
This leaves senior pupils with two weeks away from classes and weeks of stress and anxiety over exams that seem like they don’t achieve an awful lot.
But it’s our futures/competitive Uni and College places/job market. Remains to be seen. Gauging progress, assessing levels we are working to, preparation for the real exams. We’ll come out the other end of the prelims.
For myself, in 5th year, a pass or fail in the final exam could be the difference between a conditional or unconditional offer to my chosen university course. Prelims give me the chance to show not only my teachers and parents but myself that I am capable of achieving what is necessary to take my next step in life.
Although at times I feel that myself and my peers have been the guinea pigs of the Curriculum for Excellence, I am aware that we are simply being pushed to achieve our absolute potential. As I wish all students with upcoming prelims the best of luck, I leave a reminder that there will come a time when all of our hard work and efforts will come from our own back and we will not have people dedicated to pushing us on and believing in us more than we do ourselves, therefore we should seize this opportunity and support while we still can.