My Thoughts: Drama Exam – 20 May 2011


Another day, another exam. This morning it was the Drama paper, which makes up 40% of the final GCSE grade (the other 60% is made up of two performances: one scripted, the other devised). This exam was really hard to revise for; not only are the questions extremely vague, but also there was just one past-paper to look at. This meant nobody knew the extent of the deviation from last year’s questions, so most of us went into the exam hall feeling unprepared (which was not really any fault of our own or our teachers).

I took in a highlighter with me – a tip my Drama teacher had suggested – and singled out key phrases that the question asked. Then, before writing anything in the answer booklet, I jotted down a few ideas for each sub-question – a tip my Dad had suggested. This was extremely beneficial, as later in the examination I found that my writing had direction.

I think I spent far too long on the first question, describing in detail a performance that I was in during the course. I chose to write about one that we devised in December 2010, as I’d been able to revise from my response to a virtually identical question that was in our ‘mock’ earlier this year.

As I had in the mock, I found that I wrote much shorter answers to the other 10-mark questions in Section A, but I did try to put in as much detail as I could – explaining the rehearsal process, and techniques we used.

In addition to Section A, the candidate must choose between Section B and Section C. We hadn’t done the work associated with Section B, so therefore I answered Section C. This asks about a live production seen during the course, meaning my choice for the two 20-mark questions within it was between The 39 Steps and Lilly Through The Dark. My choice to write about the latter was due to the fact I’d been lucky enough to bag myself a rare copy of the show on DVD – something none of my classmates had.

LILLY TRAILER_The River People’s production of Lilly Through The Dark.

But then, reading the two questions asked in Section C – worth, let’s not forget, twenty marks each – my heart sank. “For this section, you will be writing about at least two scenes or sections from a play you have seen during the course, where you thought the on-stage relationship between two characters was effective.” This was my fatal mistake: I’d memorised one section quite well, re-watching it on the DVD again and again, but two? In the end, with little choice, I decided to put as much effort into the first question as I could. If it meant running out of time during the next question, and consequently risking twenty marks, so be it – after all, I couldn’t remember that much of the rest of the play anyway, so those marks were in jeopardy anyway.

Many years ago, whilst my brother (now 22, working for Lloyds Banking Group in London) was doing his GCSEs, he famously burst out of the exam room after one examination and exclaimed “that paper was a dream”. I’d been hoping to come home this evening and describe today’s paper as similar. Sadly, I cannot. That said, it could have been so much worse, and I’m quietly confident that I will score quite well in the first section. It’s the grade boundaries that will affect the final result in my envelope in August, and annoyingly they’re set to be higher than last year’s. It’s impossible to guess my grade though; we’ll just have to wait and see what the examiner makes of my answer booklet.

Andrew Burdett

Andrew Burdett is a twenty-something from Maidenhead in Berkshire, working for ITV News.