Be More Like Branson: Are Exams A Waste Of Time?

The long hall. The lonely chair. The Isolation. The clammy hands, and the lump in your throat. Is it all worth it?

As you sit there, anxiously staring at the clock, crossing all toes and fingers that what you crammed in the last 48 hours is the first topic you see when you flick the page, you ask yourself, is this really worth it?

With University fees at an all-time high, the number of applications to UCAS has dropped to its lowest since 2012. The lack of demand for University has seen British unis desperate for students leading to 68,000 unconditional offers across England, Wales, and Northern Ireland – the number of unconditional offers was just 3,000 as recently as 2012.

The clear decline in interest of 18-year-olds wanting to go to university is shown by applications being down 11,000 from last year which, in turn, has reportedly seen A-levels drop in difficulty in order for University slots to be filled – A whopping 26.4% of A-levels this year were awarded as either A or A*.

The results and unwillingness of students to go to university raise questions about the practical benefits of the academic system. There are many ways to test an individual’s skills and potential strengths, yet exams reign supreme. Why?

Photo from Flickr

Words of wisdom from Branson?

The likes of Virgin Media founder, Richard Branson, argues there are better ways to test skills, “My suggestion is to not get too caught up in grades and concentrate on goals. Exams don’t measure skills like creating, delegating, reasoning, exploring, communicating and positively influencing – essential skills that the world needs”.

“I flunked my exams and left school at the age of 16. I didn’t go to university and I can recall little of what was on the blackboard when I was a teenager – I am dyslexic and it was all a bit of a jumble to me. But there is much to be positive about”.

With Branson’s worth being valued at $5.1billion by Forbes this June, it would suggest flunking exams doesn’t always result in doom and gloom. The entrepreneur is not alone in his comments on the education system, as former BBC presenter Jeremy Clarkson, in rather more tongue in cheek fashion, undermined the value of exams by tweeting about his success after failing his A-Levels.

“Don’t worry if your A-level grades aren’t any good. I got a C and 2 Us. And I’m sitting here deciding which of my Range Rovers to use today.”

Jeremy Clarkson co-hosted Top Gear with Richard Hammond and James May from 2002 – 2015 – Photo from Flickr

Wrong message?

However, teachers such as Katharine Birbalsingh did not see the funny side in Clarkson’s message and responded by implying comments made by the likes of Clarkson are discouraging kids and also damaging the education system.

“Genuine plea from a teacher – Please stop encouraging kids to not work hard for their exams & in life. That’s what you are doing when you say ‘I have 2 Range Rovers & I did badly on my A-levels’ It makes our jobs so much harder. Poor kids need to work hard.”

Perhaps the winner, yet again in 2018, who had their say on the education system was Stormzy. The rapper launched his scholarship scheme around the release of A-Level results which encourages to increase the number of black applicants to Cambridge University. The scholarship will pay for two successful candidates’ tuition fees in a bid to not repeat the years 2012 – 2016 where the Financial Times discovered that some Cambridge Colelges did not take in any black students.


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