comments 22

GCSEs looming

I’ve gone very quiet for me on the blog front recently because LD#1’s GCSEs start in 2 weeks’ time.

For those of you who aren’t familiar, this is the first lot of big exams they take at age 16, and cover nine or ten subjects, some of which are compulsory (Maths, English, Science) and some optional.

A couple of weeks ago, I asked whether she wanted help with Science.  She said, “OK”, so I printed out some past papers and got a bit of a shock when she couldn’t do any of them.  (She’s predicted an A…)  She can tell me roughly about the concepts she has revised, but can’t work out how to be specific enough with her language and analysis of data.

It’s a bit like those moments when they’re small and you look up and find they’ve climbed a huge tree and instead of saying what you’re thinking, which is “Aargh!”  you say, “Wow, look at you, you are so clever!” in order not to panic or scare them.

So pretty much every spare moment until mid June is going to be the two of us sat in front of some kind of GCSE textbook.

It’s given me some fuel for those conversations where people say that GCSEs are getting easier, because Physics GCSE is definitely not!  I have a Physics A-level and am struggling to get to grips with the OCR P7 module, which is all about space and the Universe.  I went on the internet to look for advice, and all I could find was these students on going “That P7’s hard, isn’t it??”

French GCSE on the other hand is ludicrously easy.  Students from this country will be fine when they go to France if they stick to the topics of the decor of their school and what they want to do when they grow up, all spoken very slowly.  Although having said that, I’m probably tempting fate now.

On a nicer note, here are some pictures from my house warming a few weeks ago:


photo (7)Made the flowers as I watched The Godfather.  I wasn’t really concentrating on the film, which is probably why it made less than no sense to me.  It seemed to be just people killing each other and I couldn’t work out why it’s supposed to be one of the greatest films of all time.  It’s quite nicely produced, I suppose.  Also, eminently parodiable.



  1. Jennifer

    Oh dear those tests! We had college entrance exams in our next to last year of high school and I remember the nerves that haunted me. I did fine, as I’m sure she will.

  2. Oh dear I remember exam season so well – my two were three years apart so I had 6 years of exam distress to get through. I also agree with you on your comments about the difficulty levels in most subject the breadth of knowledge seemed to be much more than when I did my ‘O’ Levels where simply regurgitating facts could get you by but French: both mine passed their French with ease but can say/read/write very little of any value. My daughter could beautifully describe the day she went to the beach, complete with the outfit she wore!!

    • The Science course they are doing seems very intent on having them sift through facts and make a considered evaluation (including calculations) of what is feasible and beneficial etc. A noble aim, although having had conversations with people leaning towards the conspiracy theory school of thought, a while to go until we change the way society thinks, if that is even possible.
      If your daughter ever decides to become a travel guide in France, I am sure she will be quids in.

  3. I did O’levels and my father (who was an engineer) could help me with the sciences especially the Trad Maths – geometry, sines / cosines etc and of course equations. But then we went on to what was then called Modern (Nuffield) maths – Venn diagrams, vectors and the like. Poor man was lost. So he taught me how to develop B&W film instead. Far more useful. I never really took to physics, probably because our physics master, Mr. Peabody, an otherwise inoffensive and charming man, delighted in giving us shocks from a van der Graaf generator. I doubt if that is allowed nowadays. Shame. It might be a good alternative to ASBOs. The main message I would give LD#1 is that once you start work most people lose interest in what O’levels / GCSEs you have and the best approach is to do what you enjoy, not what you are best at. I read German – my weakest A’level – and loved it. Spent 5 years in Germany too. Go for it. If all else fails you can always do PPE at uni. It is amazing how many politicians have what we called the dosser’s degree.

  4. Oh I feel for you, having been a Mum getting through GCSE’s with my son who, in the end, did pretty well having never done much homework in the five years prior. I agree that the languages are ridiculously easy – I’d recommend anyone to take them at least at foundation level – provides another exam result without much effort!
    But seriously, good luck to LD1 and to you for providing all the support. It’s a stressful time but hopefully she’ll have a well earned brilliant summer holiday at the end of it all with some good results thrown in.

    • Your son is pretty smart from what I’ve seen of his book 🙂 Thank goodness for last minute cramming! Thanks for the good wishes, and I’m sure she’ll be very relieved and ready to enjoy summer when it is all over!

  5. I wish it wasn’t so tough and stressful for young people nearing the end of their school years. I can remember finding that period of my life hard. All the best to your daughter and I hope she manages to find some time to relax over the coming weeks.

    • Everything about school is stressful for my daughter 😦 I hope yours are still enjoying it, especially Daniel.

  6. Interesting note about the Godfather — I’m with you, not sure why it’s considered one of the great films. The music? The fact that American men of a certain age (40-70) and socio-economic status (college educated) memorized so many of its lines, so they are able speak to one another in a kind of godfather-code the uninitiated (usually women) don’t understand?

    Best wishes to LD#1 for the exams. And kudos to you for helping her to prepare. You might take it for granted, that it’s what you’re supposed to do, but many young people (especially here in the States) are entirely on their own for exam prep, and because their families don’t value that kind of achievement, they aren’t aware of the importance of doing well, and how the results impact their future options.

    • Similar thoughts crossed my mind as I watched the film 🙂 Also you are right, the last few weeks have got me thinking a lot about an equitable society and equal access to a good education. In this country the government has made a big drive to make schools provide equal access, yet I think however hard schools try, everything’s stacked against them. Society needs to be more equitable first, it’s no good just blaming teachers.

  7. Gwen Stephens

    Congratulations on your new home, Denise. Best of luck helping your daughter prepare for her exams. That’s still a couple years away for me. Good to hear how you’ve been.

    • Thanks Gwen, hope all is well with you. I was thinking of you recently, remembering your fitness kick and quest to get more toned. I have done something similar recently and thought a) congratulations again on your hard work b) doesn’t it feel good??

      • Gwen Stephens

        Yes it certainly does feel good, and the daily quest continues. I’m working on something new in the fitness realm that I will blog about eventually, once the results become evident. Well done for you, too! I hope the motivation continues. 😊

  8. I remember it all very clearly! My son is now facing his first university exams and is VERY vocal on the fact that he has no idea what will be asked of him or how he is supposed to use the knowledge he’s been given so far. My heart goes out to all our teenagers – they have so much pressure on them to do well, so many expectations, and all too often, so little clue. I’m sure your daughter will be absolutely fine. Most schools do a lot of revision and exam preparation in the run up to the exams and with your help, too, I am convinced she will come out of the experience just fine!

  9. Hope the extra studying is going well Denise. This is such a busy and stressful time of year I remember well when my kids went through it. I take my hat off to you having an A level in physics, wow! Wishing LD#1 all the very best in her exams…and peace and calm for you! BTW, loving the new GoT, so good, and I am a big fan of The Godfather 😉

  10. I can empathize, Denise. Coming from Hong Kong decades ago, I know what these exams can be like … albeit I was glad to have escaped them by immigrating to Canada a year before the exams. 😉 Here we have provincial exams for the last year of high school, but nothing as demanding as what you have there in the UK. Just a question, don’t the schools prepare their students for these exams? I remember when my son had to take AP exams and Provincial that last year, his school prepared them well. And that certainly is a burden off the parents.

    • Have I missed that you came from Hong Kong? Some of my family lives in Hong Kong. And some live in Canada. And yes the Chinese are used to a pressurised system! I don’t know what has happened at school, but they seem not to have explained what to do in a way my daughter can understand…

      • Came to Canada as a teenager, began high school (UK Form 4) here, decades ago. Gone throughout the system again raising my son. Now he’s grad. from university. 😉

      • Wow! Was there a bit of a culture difference? My mum has never really got used to it!

      • A bit. But as a teenager it was easy to adjust and have loved it here ever since.

  11. Congratulations and best wishes for many happy years in your new home. Regarding GCSE time it is a highly charged intense time for your daughter but she has done the work and she will be fine especially as you are supporting her so well

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