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14 Things We All Miss About GCSEs

A lot of people have been collecting their results during the past week, with the expected combination of those who are over the moon, and those who are sadly disappointed.

It seems that qualification types, grading markers and subject content are forever changing and this is never more so the case than with the fabled GCSEs (I’ve heard you’re graded from 1-9 now rather than with letters –sorry, what?), or as they were called in yesteryears by parents who refuse to move with the times no matter how many times you correct them, ‘O-Levels’.

Back in the day GCSEs seemed to be the be all and end all – all consuming, ready to swallow up any slackers. But in hindsight, they were pretty fantastic times. Absolutely bombed that rushed essay you handed in at the eleventh hour? No problem – have another go. Plagiarism? Probably might appear on your Latin exam but other than that, as long as you didn’t use Wikipedia, you were absolutely fine.

During adolescence, GCSEs were the time when house parties were at their highest concentration of people you actually wanted to be with, rather than a large group of BNOCs who pretend to know everyone at the party, in excessively drunken states who have smashed it so hard they probably won’t make it to the post-party club venture. This is the thing; you have nowhere to go after a house party at 16, therefore everyone took it steadily (even those fresh-faced boozy legends) and just had a cracking time.

I’m sure we can all agree that GCSEs were a wonderful period of everybody’s lives, so I’m going to take a look at the things we’ve missed the most – from the academic features, to the features that solely revolve around booze.

1.  Having a multiple choice exam

Yes, of course, you do see some examples of this at university, however these were a sure-fire way of banking points. I personally felt it was a good way of testing people as it was always so easier to revise, revise, revise, and then forget the key point you needed; whereas if you are given the option in front of you, then this may trigger the knowledge you have on the topic. A test of actual ability rather than just memory. But I guess it means someone could essentially do no revision at all, not have a clue what a Bunsen burner is, and still manage to pull 100% in Chemistry by guessing each answer. Let’s move on.

2. Being able to resit the same exam 17 different times until you achieved full marks

As stressful as it was trying to nail that bit of French vocab you just couldn’t remember, you always knew that if you bombed it, you could always try again. This eventually meant that most people were able to slowly bump up their grades to their desired level as the exams almost became second nature after repeating them so many times. Oh how times change.


3. Ditto for Coursework

“Sir/Madame, you haven’t done as well in your English coursework as we were expecting/as well as you’re capable of, therefore we were wondering if you wanted to have a 6th draft?”

4. Arguing with your friend from another school that you’re A* in GCSE English counted more than theirs because your exam board was AQA not WJEC.

Whether it’s fair or not, certain exam boards had a certain prestige. Don’t ask me why, it’s just the way the Capitalist world works (#deep). This inevitably led to arguments between friends who were at different high schools, doing the same subject with a different exam board. It’s like trying to argue that a degree at Trent has the same prestige as one from the University of Nottingham – of course, in the grand scheme of things, they’re essentially the sam… oh… wait.


5. Having a variety of different subjects to explore and study

Ok – we don’t really miss this one. Counting down from a starting point of 15 exams and 8 pieces of coursework seemed endless and ever so tedious. Pass me a pint… of a non-alcoholic beverage. We’re 16 remember. But regardless, I do miss popping along to my third period lesson to partake in a bit of Graphics, or watching Simpsons in R.E. What a time to be alive.

6. An incredible summer

I get it, the summer after A-levels was fantastic. Malia 2k13 and “Quids In” at, the sadly deceased, Halo in Leeds every Monday were particular highlights, but there was a certain pleasure during the summer after GCSEs with there being less responsibility, tonnes of house parties and still being able to play four hours of tennis, followed by a large session of “heads and volleys” without cramping up. Getting smashed also just felt a lot more fun considering the fact it was technically a criminal offence at the time. I actually liked cider back then as well. R.I.P. cider-liking taste spuds.


7. Still being able to do relatively well in an exam without actually revising too much

Again, this is rather generalised and does have its limitations. But, within reason, there was a certain technique which would enable you to do well without necessarily possessing that much knowledge. This leads to a specific example from my own life. Latin. I toiled through two years of having an extra class (not just me on my own) for two hours, every Wednesday evening after school, without actually really understanding all that much. But by memorising a set vocab list we had been given and a few pieces of the story we had analysed, the night before the exam, I managed to pull a B. If anyone has found a way of bottling excitement (and/or relief) please go back to that moment for me and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. There was also the time we were entered for the wrong R.E. exam but still had to do it anyway, and everyone managed to come out with a decent grade. But I don’t want to slander my old school- it was bloody fantastic overall.

8. Prom

Unlike our cousins across the pond, Prom isn’t all that huge, but if I had to pick the most significant example of it in Britain, it would have to be the post-GCSEs prom. Que every girl fretting about what dress they’re going to wear at the start of Year 10 when Prom is but a distant event. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t love getting dressed up and looking all dapper? Of course, being underage this means that officially there is no alcohol, however this didn’t stop me getting smashed off a glass of champagne at our ‘pre-drinks’ beforehand.

9. Having a solid friendship group with people you would see every day and you knew wouldn’t be jetting off to work in India when you finish school

Non-of this ‘having to keep in touch’ nonsense you have to do now you’re an adult and your life has moved on. Everyone you loved, cherished and even hated were all in one place. Ok, there were those from your primary school who you’d have to make a conscious effort with, but for the majority of people that was easy anyway – they had either come along with you to your high school, went to a rival school close to the one you were at, or lived pretty close to you anyway.

10. Not having to do adult things

A comparison with A-levels creeps in here. There’s no adult things to do at Sixth Form/College, I hear you cry. Well, yeah… but you still have to be a bit more independent then whereas at GCSEs you can still get away with telling your parents, “I can’t do the dishwasher tonight because I’ve got to practice putting a condom on for PSHE”.

11. Having a paper round

Ok, bare with me on this one. Granted, after settling back into my paper round routine for a week I’d probably be sick of it again, but there was a certain amount of simplistic joy from cycling round after school everyday chucking papers in the direction of houses you’d strangely started to become fond of. Monotonous and reminiscent of slave-labour it may be; but back in the day it truly was a rite of passage for any teenager. Unless ‘Daddy’ helped get you a job as a waiter/waitress at one of the franchises he owned.

12. ‘The park’ was an acceptable venue for… anything

From a cheeky fondle, to drinking yourself into a coma on a litre of White Lightning, everyone had a ‘park’ which was suitable enough as a venue if you couldn’t go round to Jimmy’s house because “his mum wasn’t actually that keen on you smoking there”. And to think so many people still question where all the used condoms in the park come from.

13. P.E.

Now, I understand that this isn’t for everyone, but even those who hated P.E. at high school still loved using it as an opportunity to bunk off to Maccies or smoke behind the electricity generator (we didn’t have bike sheds). For me, P.E. was a chance to let off some steam by smashing that fella who’d been pissing me off all day, week, month, year, or since you started high school for that matter. Of course it also enabled me the chance to show my peers and teachers why I should be playing football for Leeds United – for some reason they never caught on though. Strange…

14. Relationships were easy

Want to speak to that lass/lad you’ve been eyeing up all month? Not a problem, head into school the next day, grab one of your mates and get him/her to throw a scrunched up piece of paper with some form of cringy note on it. None of this having to ‘play the game’ business, or going on proper dates where you have to pre-plan your every move like an intense game of Age of Empires. Taking your gal/fella out, back in the young days, consisted of a cheeky session at your own house rather than going round to theirs all the time. Treating the other half involved heading to the newsagent’s local to your school and buying them a chocolate covered flapjack and a Brainlicker (#suggestive).

Edited by Katie Randall

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