I remember very little of taking my O Levels (the exams which became GCSEs shortly afterwards). I never have been much good at studying for things because, in truth, I have never really known how to study for things. From the earliest time I can remember, I simply relied upon re-reading things and hoping that they somehow stuck in my memory. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. Mostly, it didn’t.
In addition, I found the whole business of studying incredibly tedious. I was going over things I had already done, when there was new music to listen to, new books to read. It didn’t hold any appeal for me at all.
It is not surprising, therefore, that I have blanked out the full details of what happened in these exams. Here, instead, are some bullet points:
- English Language and Mathematics I have no memory whatsoever of taking
- Opening the English Literature paper and realising with horror that, despite over half of the prepared material being on Wilfred Owen, there was only one question about him
- I remember nothing of my Computer Studies exam, but I remember that my two pieces of project work were a darts game which involved using polar coordinates (which meant that I had to formally acknowledge that Dad had taught me them, as they were not on the syllabus) and a record-keeping programme based on my uncle’s milk round
- Opening my Physics paper and wishing I had done more than 20 minutes of revision for it. I still don’t know how I failed a subject I had considered taking at A level
- Again, I remember nothing of my actual History exam, but I know that I bloody-mindedly took a risk of being marked down for producing a piece of course work that was biographical, because I wanted to do something on George Stephenson
- Walking into my German oral exam and knowing that I was going to walk it but still make a mess of the written paper. In those days I could speak German but not write it, to the point that even my German teacher described me as a ‘dyslexic German
- Jon Proudman trying to set my hair on fire before our Chemistry exam. I might go into this in more detail another day
- Having to wait over a week at the end to take the written paper in Design Technology, even though I knew that I was going to fail because the subject had singularly failed to arouse any interest in my for the previous two years
From all of which you will gather that I failed Physics, Chemistry and Design Technology and just passed the rest!