Insider Post: What the A-Level exams were really like

 As promised, this week the blog will shed a little light on exams in the school system and today I'm extremely honoured to present you with some notes from the front line! Tom Pandolfino has been sweating over this year's A-Levels and he's now one of millions of students anxious to receive their results tomorrow. In today's blog post, Tom lets us in on his thoughts about the last two years of language in the school system, and whether he thinks it was worth it.

International Readers: A-Levels are the UK's school leaving exams at 18, the senior high school is called "Sixth Form", and GCSE are the ones at about 16. They love exams in this country. 

Judgement day...? Perhaps for some!

For many young students, tomorrow is seen as the 'make it or break it day'. It’s already that time of year again in which we as students receive our A-level results. There is much pressure upon us to get those grades in order to go to the university of our choice or to go on with future life achieving the best possible results. I am sure that many finger nails will have been bitten to shreds! 


Having worked hard for the past two years and particularly hard in the last year, the summer time came around and it was time for my exams. Being stressed is an understatement as to how I felt. I can safely say that this was a shared feeling for the majority of my friends and other students. You really feel like your whole life depends on these exams, however sometimes you just need to remind yourself that it is not the end of the world and that there really are much worse and more serious things in life than writing on a piece of paper in timed conditions. 

In my own case, I feel nervous about the results tomorrow, but I maintain the mindset that it is all done now and I tried my best, so I cannot be tough upon myself, whatever is to happen. Yet at the same time I am very much looking forward to getting my results as I want to go on with the next stage of my life and start a new chapter at university! 

The beginning of the past two years...  

After my GCSEs, I personally decided to continue with my studies in the form of A-levels as I hoped to go on to study at university. Having been successful in both French and German at GCSE level, I decided to take the plunge and continue them both on as two of my A-level choices. 

Foreign languages had always intrigued me whilst I was at school, and I got so much satisfaction in communicating with others as there is so much to be learnt about our wonderful world! I still find it thrilling now talking in a different language as it allows you to see and feel the world in a different light. My other subjects that I decided to study for A-Level along with my languages were Economics and Government and Politics. These were subjects that I chose as I thought they would be relevant to and linked with languages, in a modern and inter-linked global world.

So what are these exams really like?

I spent my two years of sixth form working up to the A-Level exams, and after a total of 8 exams in the exam season just gone, I can happily say that I feel they all went well! Some of course were harder than others and there are always parts of the exam paper itself that were very difficult. You know that dreaded after thought of ‘wait...should I have written this instead?’ or ‘was it actually A and not B?’ Perhaps though as far as I am concerned the most difficult exams are the writing exams for the languages.

It is my belief that the speaking exams remain the most nerve-racking even though I feel that is where I am strongest. At the end of the day, my favourite part about language learning is using the language face to face and getting stuck in to conversation. In these exams, I noticed how much confidence I had gained in speaking the languages as I really pushed myself throughout my last year of A-levels to not just get an A-level grade in my languages but to actually try and be able to really USE them. It is such a shame in my opinion that many people will leave school, often having studied a language and sometimes even to a fairly advanced level, such as A-level standard, but will never use their skill. They will just let their knowledge fade away. 

Find out if it was worth the work

It really did soon become quite clear to me that having studied both French and German, I had reached quite a high level of proficiency from having done my A-levels. I can by no means claim that I speak them perfectly and I do not understand every single word that I hear or read, but I have achieved an intermediate or upper intermediate level in both languages. With the internet at my disposal I can log on and quite confidently have conversations in these languages about most subjects with people around the world. Of course once again I do not know every specific word related to fixing a car or to sky diving but I can make myself understood. For me that, is my goal: to make myself understood as best as I can. Of course I would hope that by doing this and learning from my mistakes my linguistic abilities will improve as time goes on. 

All in all, I would say that having taken languages as two of my subjects, I have had great fun. It is tough work whatever someone decides to do for their A-levels but languages in particular will require a lot of commitment to really try and get the best possible grades.

If anyone reading this is unsure whether to take a language or two or even three (I know someone who did this) for their A-levels, go for it! You will benefit so much from being able to understand and communicate even at a basic level and it is so much fun! It further shows that you are not afraid of a challenge! But to all those who get their results tomorrow I wish you all the best and I hope that you all get the grades that you want and can like me go on to the university of your choice! 

 You can follow Tom on YouTube, and please do leave a comment to wish the guy good luck for tomorrow!