Europe, UK, Opinion

Why A Level Exam Results Aren’t the Be All and End All

It may seem pretty ironic that this university drop out who didn’t get A’s or B’s in her A level exam is now telling you that A level results aren’t a big deal. But hear me out, because it really isn’t the end of the world if you don’t get the grades you needed for your dream university.

I got distinctions in my BTEC Mechanical Engineering, a C in Maths, and a D in Physics. I was pretty much a straight A student in my GCSEs (apart from Bs in English Literature and Art, but whatever), so I wasn’t used to getting such low grades in Maths and Science. They are usually my forte; I am an engineer after all. But for some reason I just couldn’t get the grades in my A levels and I thought that it was the end of the world. I wouldn’t get a decent job, I’d end up living in the slums on the dole, constantly strapped for cash. Yeah, I was pretty melodramatic back then. But I needn’t have worried because through UCAS Clearing I was able to get a place at the University of Leicester studying Aerospace Engineering.

As easy as that, I was going to be studying the course I wanted at a decent university with a C and a D in the required subjects.

I’ll let you in on a little secret about the A level exam…

Some universities understand the crippling pressure put on A level students. As though it’s not enough that you’re constantly thinking about those damn grades, your parents and teachers are probably lecturing you about how important it is that you do well in your exams. As a result there appears to be no grey area: either you get the grades, go to university and become successful, or you don’t and you fail. I’m here to tell you there IS a middle ground.

Now, going on a huge rant and rave about people like Richard Branson and Lord Alan Sugar who didn’t even finish school isn’t going to help you. You have completed school, and not everyone is interested in being an entrepreneur. But let me tell you this: you still have options. One is Clearing and looking at going to another university. There are some universities that will accept you onto their course, even if you didn’t get the grades. As I said before, some of them understand the pressure and lack of authenticity that A levels offer. Just because you didn’t get the right grades, doesn’t automatically make you stupid.

A gap year can be a good tool

If that’s not for you, or no other universities are doing the course you want, take a gap year. Gap years are great, because you can earn yourself a bit of money for when you do go to university, do some resits if you want to improve on your grades, and gain some work experience. Two friends come to mind when I think of gap years. One didn’t get the right grades for the university of their choice, so they did redid some exams and managed to go to that university the following year. The other got straight A’s but took a gap year to earn a bit of money for university and gain some related work experience.

And another thing: university isn’t the be all and end all either!

That friend who took a year out to resit for their top choice university ended up dropping out because they didn’t enjoy it, and is now doing an apprenticeship instead. I ended up dropping out of university because I didn’t fit in well. I’m studying the same course elsewhere now and will be graduating next year at 24. Neither of us are failures just because we haven’t graduated at 21 years of age. It’s not as black and white as that.

The education system seems to be pushing students harder than ever before to comply to a particular standard, and then when they do they move the finish line further away. In the past year GCSE’s have become harder and practical experiment results no longer count in A level science grades. It’s no wonder that students are feeling hopeless and unmotivated. Of course the grades are important to you, and parents and teachers are always going to remind you how they are your only gateway to being successful. But to be honest, that’s just the education system talking. There is a whole lot of life to be lived after the A level exam, whether you get the grades you wanted or not.

So if you got your results yesterday and they’re not exactly what you wanted, don’t fret. You’re still awesome and you can still take steps to get to where you want to be. Your life isn’t over, and you will still become the successful person you want to be. Just as long as you don’t give up.

About Claire Miller

Claire Miller is the content manager of I Bit The Piranha. When she's not writing or studying, she's either reading, knitting, dancing around her room, or making excuses why she can't go for a run today.

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