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Exams Cancelled: Now What?

What a year this week has been!

Okay, some housekeeping notes before we start. This blog is for the conscientious students, and their parents where necessary. This blog is for those who care about what to do now, rather than treating these events as some excuse to simply socialise, game and loiter without intent.

This blog is not making any political statements. You may assume you know who I voted for in the last election, but you don't know for sure; and may even be surprised if I told you. This blog will refer to the factual events which have unfolded in public, whilst sympathising for this - and any - government having to navigate such an enormous unknown quantity. For the avoidance of doubt, I am going to be working from the presupposition that everyone (in the UK, stateside is an entirely different matter) is doing the best they can, with the best information they have at present. So that being said, let's get on with it.


As many of you know, I have a sixteen year-old daughter who has been caught up in this COVID-19 versus GCSE (+ A-Level and BTEC) examination quandary. She came home from school yesterday shocked, somewhat numb and hugely disappointed that she is going to be prevented from taking the exams she has been working and revising so hard, for so long, for. It feels surreal for every one of her classmates and teachers too - and I feel flat out weird about it all, having supported her studies and co-curricular activities.

When it was officially announced the 2020 exams were cancelled, some students were elated and started burning their school books. I suppose we're all entitled to respond how we choose, but I couldn't help silently screaming inside that they were making a huge mistake. Needless to say, my daughter and her friends burnt no such books, because who is to say events won't swivel back round, and those books will become essential again? Admittedly, this is highly unlikely, but why not retain the information and knowledge you've built up anyway? There is also a highly cynical point of view which would suggest the books from those particular students probably wasn't worth saving anyway, but that's perhaps unkind?

As I said earlier, this blog is for the conscientious students who have a forward journey into Sixth Form, college or universaity to prepare for, so now what? Whilst coaching my Daughter and her friends, I have encouraged them to reframe their thinking. Rather than remaining in shock and upset with a "We were robbed!" mentality, flip the internal script and choose to see this as a once in a life time opportunity. Why? Because it is! To the best of my knowledge, this has never happened before, and I am really old and can recall many, many decades.

At the time of writing, the government has consulted with head teachers and exam bodies (amongst other official entities) and come up with a plan to agree upon the affected exam results. Currently, it is expected the predicted grades, combined with historic grade curves, effort, behaviour and recent mock results will determine the final results. There will be an appeals backstop made available for those who seek redress, so there remains a fair degree of fluidity. Fairness and accuracy are the overarching objectives behind this imperfect solution we are told. Subject teachers will also contribute their professional opinions, which must be further supported by evidence, and this broadly seems fair.

So, for those like Daughter who have worked relentlessly hard, been on time every time, taken every learning opportunity made available, this should all work out well enough. Daughter's disappointment however, is rooted in the fact that she had identified areas in which she could improve upon from her February mocks, but will never be able to exploit and test her additional effort. Obviously she was looking to blow her predicated grades out of the water, but will now never know what she could have achieved in the GCSE exam halls. This she needs to get over, quickly.

Where GCSEs are concerned, it is also important to remember this one fact. In ye olde times of yore, when I was sitting O-Levels with slate and chalk, those O-Levels were pretty much the be all and end of education for many. Of course some 'boffs', who had e.g.: medical and legal aspirations, went on to study A-Levels before their degrees, but for the vast majority, O-Levels were all that most employers were looking for. Nowadays however, GCSEs are viewed more as the gateway qualifications to pre-degree A-Levels.

Please don't misunderstand me, I am NOT dismissing the importance of GCSEs at all, especially having watched how hard Daughter has been working these past two years. What I am saying to students now affected, who want a Sixth Form or college place is this: as long as you get the grades you need for the courses you want, it's all good. Let go of any disappointment you may be carrying about not having the chance to prove yourself, because that negativity will act as an anchor pulling you under the surface of sound mental health. Please do not allow this to happen. If there is a genuine travesty of justice then appeal, but if your eventual grades are about right (or better), then go with the flow.

As for A-Level and BTEC students, I am going to assume you have been working hard throughout and without exception, because you have chosen what you're doing. You have nothing to fear either. Your continuous effort and endeavour throughout your course will be there for all to see and evaluate. Obviously if you haven't been giving your studies the applied attention and effort they require, then events may unfold differently for you. There is always the appeals backstop to fall back on, if you feel misrepresented or hard done by, by this unprecedented grading process.


So, your exams have been cancelled, not postponed. What should you do now? Keep revising is my advice. Why? Because what's the alternative? Not revising is the alternative, and how is that going to move you closer towards achieving your goals? Granted, you may not have to revise 8-10 hours a day during the Easter holidays as first anticipated, but you'd be wise to put some work in. If you are unlikely to be back in full-time education until September-ish, can you really afford six months of doing absolutely nothing? Your mind would have the acuity of soup!

You now have the time and resources (because you didn't burn your books) to prepare yourself for the next chapter, for the next stage of your life, whenever it's going to be allowed to manifest. I understand everything may be delayed, and that nothing is going forwards in the manner you expected, but that is not an excuse to quit. Employ the responsive proactivity methodology detailed in my blog article: Responsive Proactivtity: Doing What Matters Now and do what you can, when you can.

I give my children this next piece of advice so often they've taken to screaming into pillows when I do, but I don't care because it's life changing advice, if you live it. Ready? Here goes.

Always do your best in every situation,

because it puts you in the best possible position in the next situation

Please read that again and really think about and digest it. I live my entire life around this credo and it has paid life changing dividends for me, so it can for your too.

At all times, excluding your essential down time, ask yourself: "What can I be doing now to help myself, or further my cause?" and then do it. If it can't be done now, do it when it needs to be done and no excuses. A simple diary or calendar will help you to remember the details. If you can study the complex subjects you've been studying, you can drive a calendar and learn self-mastery!


That voice inside your head is not the voice of God, it just thinks it is! You're under no obligation to think a thought if it's negative or unresourceful. Swipe it out of your mind like a picture on your camera roll, and immediately choose to think three replacement positive thoughts. It's entirely possible you could gurgle down the negative drain following events like these, but is that what you want? No, it's not, so decide that only positive, empowering thoughts get access to your mind. Make like a security doorman with an "Access Denied" to any thoughts which do not lift you higher, or inspire you to achieve greater.

What's happened to you is unprecedented. It's never happened before and we are all fighting COVID-19 as best we can. What's happened to your exams is strange, but it doesn't mean you can't swing it round to your advantage. Invite your friends and peers to think of yourselves as pioneers rather than victims. Think of yourselves as special and lucky, but honour that luck by further investing in yourselves for whatever comes next. In many cases, I suspect you're going to be given the benefit of any doubt, in respect of your final grades, so just wait and see what actually happens before (wrongly) assuming it's all going to turn horribly against you.


We know that paranoia is a mental condition characterised by delusions of persecution; where everyone is out to get you, and not in a good way. It's understandable if you've been feeling a little paranoid over recent days, but please don't, because it's not healthy - or true. Instead, reframe your thinking and become an Inverse Paranoid, if you really have to become anything at all. An Inverse Paranoid believes everyone is out to help them, support them, and that the universe is actively working for, rather than against them. This is a healthier mindset to adopt, at least until you have to invoke the appeals process. And you might not have to!

So, your plan of action goes like this: assume all is well, that everyone is working towards supporting your goals and dreams. You stay mentally strong and healthy in the process. Then, when I'm right and it all shakes out in your favour, so much the better, no harm no foul. If however, you need to invoke the appeals process, then - and only then - do you leap into responsive proactivity to get the matter resolved. Worrying about how things can go wrong won't make them go right, so only respond to facts, not assumptions.

So your exams were cancelled, now what? Well, now you know what: keep going, don't stop, you still have so much more to achieve, regardless of everything happening in the world right now.

Stay safe, wash your hands, respect social distancing and be well.

Wishing you every success.

Karan x


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