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Coping with exams being cancelled.

Updated: May 12, 2020

Like many of you, I have also been affected by the decision to cancel exams this academic year - I was meant to be taking my A-Levels this summer. Whether we were due to take our A-Levels, GCSEs or any other exams this year, I think the news came as a shock to us all, but it will have affected us all in different ways.

However you feel right now is valid

For some people this will be a great relief; the lead up to exams can be really stressful and cause a lot of anxiety for people. I know loads of people who had been staying up all night to revise, which was taking a toll on their mental health. So for a lot of people, I am sure that this will be really beneficial for you, maybe even leaving you feeling happier and healthier, which is amazing! There is far too much pressure on young people when it comes to excelling in exams and being taught that they are the ‘be all and end all’ of their futures, which simply isn’t true. However, the news may also have caused a lot of upset for people who might feel as though they have worked extremely hard over the last two years and this makes a lot of their sacrifices worthless. I completely get that, because it is so frustrating that you will never get to know what you really would have gotten in the exams after all of that work.

There might be question marks over some of your top university choices or courses causing worry as well. I am sure that the news caused a lot of heartbreak and disappointment for a lot of you and that’s totally understandable - we all put a lot of energy into revising for these exams. Personally, I felt a mixture of both of these feelings. I don’t think it sunk in properly for a couple of days, but I was quite upset about it just because I felt (and still feel) frustrated that I will never know what I will actually get after all of the time and effort that I put in. But at the same time, I can feel myself becoming less stressed because I don’t have to worry about sitting the exams, which is positive.

Your hard work isn't wasted

However you feel, it is important to remember that your hard work isn’t wasted because the knowledge that you learnt is still so valuable. Education was never introduced to test young people, it was to build transferable skills and acquire knowledge and you’ve done that, possibly without even realising! You should still be so proud of how far you have come over the last couple of years and celebrate your achievements. Don’t put yourself down because you didn’t get to the exam hall to ‘prove yourself’. This situation doesn’t make you or your results worth any less. This is the time to give yourself a break - just like you would do after exams. Take care of your health and treat yourself with some self-care routines. I’m taking the opportunity to read some books that I haven’t had the time to start.

Learning without exams

I’ve been struggling to know what to do with my time now, whether I continue learning or not, but no matter where we are in life, we will always be learning, and I believe that we should be able to enjoy what we learn. So you could even take the opportunity to learn a new skill or about a new topic that you wish you had studied - it could be related to a particular university course or just something you’re interested in. It’s so important to keep learning and exercising your brain, so try not to stop doing that just because you won’t be learning for an exam. You might even enjoy what you are doing more without the added pressure!

Grades do not define you

This is a strange and difficult time for us all, and it’s particularly hard when everything you’ve been preparing for for years is cancelled without warning. But please remember that no matter what the ultimate outcome is, a grade does not define you. It’s natural to be upset and disappointed, but you have also got the time to look after yourself properly now. So take the time to read a book, chat to your friends, get some better sleep and rest, do the things that you might not have been able to before at home when you were constantly revising. Your wellbeing is always the most important thing to take care of, particularly at times like this. It is okay to be upset now but remember that we’re all in this together, and there are always going to be people who will listen and who you can talk to. Please look after yourselves.

This blog was originally written for and posted on the YoungMinds website (https://youngminds.org.uk/blog/how-im-coping-with-exams-being-cancelled/).

Photo @youngmindsuk‘s Instagram 💛.

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