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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 August, 2004, 16:19 GMT 17:19 UK
'Credit where it's due, please'
Lucy Tobin
Lucy Tobin and her friends waited anxiously for weeks

Lucy Tobin received her A-level results today, ending weeks of anxious waiting.

The north London teenager describes how dispiriting the whole debate about "dumbing down" - when improvements in results are attacked as evidence of lower standards - can be.

Though the press began publishing their "A-levels are getting easier" articles just a few days ago, 19 August - results day - has been ingrained in my mind for a lot longer.

The finality of results day has loomed large since the sunny June day I put my exam pencil case away for the last time.

A-levels are one of the most important records of our academic career.

So it's not surprising that waves of anxiety have hit my friends and me while working at summer jobs, holidaying around the world or just sunbathing in the garden.

People insist our improving exam grades are due to easier exams.

'Waiting for the clock'

But while I agree that the system - specifically the growth in re-sits - has helped to raise the number of high grades, it's incredibly demoralising to have the exams we study so hard for condemned year after year.

For many of my friends there was the added pressure of university places hinging on their A-level results.

I'm applying to read English, post A-level, so avoided this worry. But I still needed three A grades to even consider applying for my top university choice: Oxford.

And so, with all these sources of pressure, I found myself in the middle of a group of a hundred or so students waiting very nervously for the clock to strike 11 and for my school's front door to open.

Looking around at so many nervous faces, I reflected that, as a student in one of the most examined generations ever, I've spent one day every summer for the past three years in a similar situation.


Though the anticipation and apprehension don't seem to lessen with experience, by making exams more frequent, the system does reduce the amount of pressure: our futures are no longer dependent on one single exam.

When we were finally allowed to search for our sealed white envelopes, I was elated to see that the three letters that made up my A-level results were exactly what I was hoping for.

There were hugs all round, but inevitably some friends were upset, and the overall level of grades at my school meant that some who missed their grades felt even worse.

But I think all students want you to remember that we spent months preparing for our A-levels, and maybe that's more important than linking our success to "dumbing down".

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