Friday, October 15, 2004

Exams: Not-giving-a-monkey's woe


I was a real lazy bastard by the time I reached sixteen. I knew it all, and couldn't be arsed with any of this college work and A-Level business.

This lax attitude and the joint discoveries of pornography, beer, dossing in the Students Union and the computer game Elite left me with little time for the such inconveniences as exam revision. Or even appearing in lectures.

The result: two grade Ds and an E in Maths, Physics and Chemistry A-levels, roughly equivalent to three straight As by today's standards, where you only need to turn up with your clothes on the right way round and the flimsiest knowledge of bowel control to get a top grade.

And that's where I went wrong, to tell you the truth. I aimed low, sat the exams and walked away with utterly shit grades. I actually spent more time doing my drinking buddy Martin's Computer Science project for him (he was almost permanantly comatose on beer and the dreaded weed), and I just HAD to do something to prevent him from getting no grade at all.

He got a grade O, which meant he had actually made no progress at all in two years of study, which was pretty good going on his part. With his newly found computer skills under his belt, he is now a landscape gardener. Looking back, I should have followed his example and done nothing at all.

And I'll tell you why.

Mrs Duck had a girl in her year at school who followed the Martin philosophy of doing as little as possible, and actually went on holiday instead of sitting her O-level exams. That balmy June, as her friends sweated it out in a hot exam room, the Whitley Whiff getting right up their noses, Jasmine spent a couple of weeks sitting on a beach in Spain, getting chatted up by tight-trousered waiters and puking over hotel balconies.

While everybody got their exam results in August with the usual passes, fails and screaming ab-dabs from the parents (these were back in the days where kids actually failed exams, even if they remembered to show up), Jasmine got a computer-generated sheet of paper with a list of subjects, each marked with the three letters "Abs" - Absent.

With no formal qualifications, Jas went out and took a course at the South Reading Polytechnic of Duckin' and Divin' (now the Thames Valley University of Geezer).

Most people would just shrug and go get a job stacking shelves in Tescos. Not our Jas. She applied for a job in a large High Street bank. A job of stature, one that needed qualifications. Qualifications in subjects she had pointedly avoided in the name of a rather stylish tan. She got the job, and now manages a branch of said large High Street branch in a location I am sworn never to divulge.

Jasmine, you see, the night before her big interview with said large High Street bank, spent a rather profitable evening making a few subtle changes to her computer-generated exam board letter of woe. The dot-matrix printed Abs-for-Absents were gently scraped away, leaving ten straight A grades, and an exciting career in banking beckoned.

I bet she even asked the two magic questions "How much money do I get?" and "How much sick leave can I have?" in the interview.

I don't know why I bother. Twenty years later, I am now more-or-less in the career I want to be in, and just a year away from getting the (Open University) degree I was more than capable of achieving had I not been such a lazy bastard. And to think that a bit of Tipp-ex would have seen me in Downing Street by now.

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