The Exams Are Over: Let Summer Begin – 18 June 2014


An exams paper with the words "End of Questions" visible.

My A Level exams are over for 2014… but, after a disastrous Maths paper today, I may end up needing to retake.
[PHOTO: © Andrew Burdett 2014]

On its completion, I’d been hoping to slam down this afternoon’s C4 paper, burst through the double doors at the back of the hall, and waltz blithely into a long summer of freedom.

Instead, I’m suffering a terrible low – the knowledge that however hard I tried for these Maths exams, it was largely in vain. I thought Monday morning’s C3 was bad, but it was nothing on this. For the first time, I realised what it was to ‘go blank’ mid-exam. Virtually every part of every question seemed alien and unanswerable, and yet I’ve seen so many questions of each type before. Above my desk, I have exercise books filled with my responses to each past paper from the last nine years. With an invaluably patient Maths teacher mother, I’d analysed all my mistakes. And yet, and yet. Disaster on the big day.

There is nothing more depressing than reading a question over and over again, only for it to make less and less sense as the clock relentlessly ticks away. Or rather, there is nothing more depressing than that, apart from giving up, turning the page, and realising the next question is even worse.

And the silly thing is this: it was not impossible. But in the heat of the moment, it certainly felt that way, and I am disappointed to have left so many answer-boxes empty.

At this point, people always tell me, ‘Ah, Andrew, I’m sure you’ll be fine’. I wish! True, my GCSEs were far better than I’d pessimistically expected, but I’ve really struggled at A Level, and if it weren’t for all of the other things that have kept me busy, I’d be far less upbeat about my time in the Sixth Form. Academically, it’s been far more challenging than I could ever have expected.

That is not to mention the extra difficulties that my recently-broken scaphoid presented to the exams season. I’m immensely fortunate to have had such a smooth experience from the brilliant team of invigilators at my school; they went out of their way to ensure I was not at significant disadvantage whilst sitting the papers. That said, it is an unavoidable truth that the impossibility of quickly taking notes from a textbook has naturally had something of a detrimental effect on my revision.

Next year, I’m taking a gap year, in which I’m due to begin a job as a Teaching Assistant in a local primary school. This will allow me to ‘take stock’, and will provide the opportunity to reconsider my options – especially in light of my A Level results, which will be released in August. Vidēbimus!

But today my exams season ends, and the summer can finally begin. Many of my friends are tonight heading out to Smokey Joes Roadhouse (Maidenhead’s premier night out) but, in typical Andrew Burdett style, I shall be attending a choral concert. Not just any concert, mind, but one at which my father is singing. Yes, keep it hush-hush, but Daddy Burdett has become a member of the Furze Platt Voices adult choir, so the first thing I’m doing on finishing school is… erm, going back to school.

After tonight, though, the summer will really get going. I’m watching a show in London tomorrow, providing the PA for the church’s summer fair on Saturday, and throwing a party on Sunday before the school Prom the following day. And this is just the start: I cannot wait for what else I’ve got planned.

I’ve been counting down the weeks to today, measuring time in ‘Sundays’ – for months, the sabbath day has been marked by skiving church and neglecting my beloved Sunday Times, whereas now I’ll have the time to enjoy all of the paper’s twelve sections.

Most of all I shall enjoy the freedom of the coming weeks and months; freedom, granted at last, to serve as a well-earnt reward.

This post was written on 18 June 2014, but first published only on 25 June 2014.

Andrew Burdett

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