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A-level results: why it’s totally OK to feel angry and frustrated right now

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Hollie Richardson
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A-level results: our advice.

The UK is outraged over this year’s A-level results, and rightly so. But this anger can, and should, be channelled into creating a better future.

Many millennials will agree that studying for A-levels were two of the most stressful, demanding and frustrating years of our lives. 

On top of navigating those latter teenage years, we were told that we had to deliver on exams and coursework that would apparently dictate the direction of the rest of our lives. Whether you pulled your socks up and worked bloody hard, or struggled and crumbled at the final hurdle – it was a tough time for everyone. 

That’s why, even if you don’t know anyone who just found out their A-level results this morning, there was a collective feeling of empathy for students who are finishing school during the coronavirus pandemic

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Instead of being graded on exam performances, the government announced that students would be graded based on predictions. This has led to unfair results and criticism from all angles. 

A or A* grades increased to an all-time high in England, Wales and Northern Ireland with 27.9% securing the top grades this year. However, figures released by The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (OfQual) showed 39% of entries were downgraded by one or more grades compared with teacher predictions.

Students affected by the mass downgrading of A-level results in England have been urged to join a possible legal action against the Department for Education and the exams regulator.

Basically: it’s a shit situation, it’s unfair and the outrage is absolutely understandable. Especially in a society that already rewards privileged students, specifically those who are privately educated, by default. 

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Yes, A-levels are important and can be life-changing, and it would be patronising to say they are not.

But, many of us now have the life experience to know that they are definitely not the be-all and end all. And, if there’s one thing that us millennials have learned from our predecessors: it’s that Generation Z are resilient, progressive and ready to make a noise for some real change.

Just look at Greta Thunberg’s climate change protests, the rise in the Black Lives Matter movement, and the amplification of raising awareness over mental health discussions. Also, we all held our heads in mock shame recently when Gen Z savagely called out millennials for all our flaws

When thinking about the best kind of advice to students picking up their results today, comedian Sara Pascoe hits the nail on the head: “I think people tweeting about how their A-levels didn’t define their career are trying to make you feel better, but if you feel disappointed and bereft right now you have every right. It’s not fair. Xx.”

There is no advice to give, just a lot of understanding. 

With this in mind, here are some words of comfort from team Stylist:

Kayleigh Dray, executive digital editor-at-large

“This is awful. It’s awful, and it’s unfair, and it’s absolutely right that you’re feeling so angry right now. Take some time to grieve. Cry, cuddle your loved ones, cry some more. Do whatever you need to do to feel better. Then, follow Michelle Obama’s advice and focus that anger, channel it into something more. Because that raw emotion you’re feeling? That desire for progress, for something better, for something fairer? That is the stuff that can change the course of history.”

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Victoria Sanusi, acting commissions editor

“I’m not entirely sure anything us older lot will say can make you feel better. And this may be something you’ve heard countless of times on social media but your grades do not define you. Tests do not define your excellence, your creativity or wisdom or how your life will pan out. The government has a reputation of screwing us over, I was the first year to attend uni when they changed fees from £3,000 a year to £9,000 a year. As I said before I’m not sure this is helpful but I believe in you.”

Megan Murray, senior digital writer

“Everyone around you will happily pile on the pressure that these exam results are the very thing your life depends on – but guess what? They aren’t. Like, at all. 

“A mere three years after I bombed my A-levels and got Ds in everything I should have got As and Bs in, I started my first job at a fashion magazine and no one even asked me what type of university degree I got, let alone my A-level results! 

“Since leaving university (which I got into through clearing), my job interviews have depended on my willingness to learn, enthusiasm and passion about the subject and employer I was pitching myself to. If your results don’t go the way you hoped it isn’t the end of your opportunities, just concentrate on all the brilliant things you have to offer for who you are, not letters the system gave you.”

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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…