Along with getting embarrassed about dancing whilst sober, and pretending they don't like Disney anymore, it's well known that at some point adults are likely to declare that exams are not that important. They might also say school and college were the best times of their life, whilst blocking out the pain and sadness of their actual full-time educational experiences, but this only because having to go and do a job you hate five days a week is way worse than being forced to do a host of school-day tasks and activities seemingly designed to humiliate, bore, and confuse.
If you're a young person reading this currently taking your GCSEs, A-Levels, or end of year uni exams, you might have heard a range of adult types saying exams don't matter, from successful YouTubers who coasted into internet fame in their teens, or celebrities who dropped out of school only to be given a recording contract, film role, modelling job (delete as appropriate) a few years, maybe mere months, later, making the need for exams utterly redundant. For a start, ignore these people in matters of educational importance. Of course exams are not important when you have more financial security than you can shake a stick at. But you might also hear from the non-famous elders in your life saying that school exams are not that important, and that's because they've got to a stage in life when they really aren't.
But you, my young friend, are not at this stage, so it's best to close your ears to well-meaning old people and concentrate on your upcoming tests. Of course, if you are making yourself ill over exams, or have blown their importance out of all proportion, then of course listen to people who tell you to prioritise your physical and mental health over exams, they're certainly not that important. Make sure you seek help from your parents or teachers if you're at this stage.
Here's why exams are important enough to not be disregarded. When adults apply for jobs they're asked to give examples of work they've done in previous roles, any achievements or notable moments that makes them an ideal candidate for the new role. Employers will look at a candidate's education too, with some professions and industries placing more importance on this than others, but the most crucial thing is that the person applying for the job has experience and skills. When you're sixteen or eighteen and have just left school, perhaps when you're in your early twenties and have just left university, you are unlikely to be able to demonstrate a wealth of work experience and moments when you nailed it in previous roles. Therefore, when you're applying for a job (or apprenticeship, or internship, or another educational course), your qualifications are the focus for what you'll be judged by. Sure, you might have some part time work experience, and some extra-curricular activities that are excellent to add to your CV, but for the first five or six years after you leave school, your GCSEs and A-Levels (or equivalent) are your calling card.
Employers don't just look at your grades and use them as a measure of your intelligence. Sure, it gives them a rough idea, but there's way more important things that your school qualifications indicate:
* Your ability to push yourself to achieve the best possible grade that you are capable of, learning from your mistakes and bettering yourself (your tutors can write you a reference to say how well you've improved during the two years of your exam course)
* Your ability to read and deconstruct questions, and your ability to apply your knowledge to answer them
* Your ability to work under time pressure (exams) and to deadlines (coursework)
* Your ability to work in a group (if coursework is practical and group-based)
* Your ability to take on a project and see it through to a high standard
* Your ability to acquire knowledge, be guided, but also apply your own thought processes and opinions
* Are you creative? Can you be a critical thinker? Where do you excel and why?
These are all relevant skills in the workplace, needed for a range of jobs, and they're skills that your teachers have been helping you gain throughout all those years of 'pointless' classroom and homework tasks. Your exams are your chance to shine, to show people what you've learnt, and to make yourself proud. It's not silly or pointless to want to excel in something, even if it means little later on in life, it really counts for something now. The hard work you put in to revising and studying and being the best you can be now will never be pointless - those are skills and aptitudes you'll take with you throughout your career.
Don't listen to people who say exams are pointless, they might be to them, but for you now, they're your world. Be kind to yourself, study hard - but not to breaking point, and use this time to reflect on what you've learned and how far you've come. Just remember, it's only for a few months, the effort will be over soon, but the results of that effort will help you get to where you want to be in the next stage of your career. Good luck!
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