Nostalgia ain’t always sweet – exam memories!

My son is 11 years old and it is SATS week for Year 6 kids.

Now, being a boy who is already under the influence of mild testosterone surges (that’s a whole other Blog entry) I was unsurprised at his somewhat nonchalant approach to this week. He is a little bit bi-polar at the moment. One moment we can be having a nice mum-to-son chat and the next he’s stomping and harumphing about the place. That said, I had expected him to confess to a few nerves. Nope. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

Perhaps this is the sweet naivete of his tender years. He has, after all, had little experience of ‘exams’ (even the word gives me shivers) as Primary school has so far been a protective haven of play and learning. I, on the other hand, am 44 years old (birthday week – that’s also a whole other Blog entry) and whilst it may be 26 full years since I last sat a series of exams, the horror comes back to me with instant recall.

In those days, of course, there was no ‘course work’ taken into account with your final results. It was all about your performance on the day in the scary examination hall. I went to an all-girls (gals) Grammar School. I have no idea how I managed to pass the 11+ entry exam (more on that in a mo), nor have I any clue how my mother persuaded me to forsake all my friends and the local Comprehensive school that they were all to attend in favour of a long bus journey across town to a stuffy academy where the boys were separated from the gals by an entire school, but persuade me she did and off I went.

This is me (second from right) with my school pals in the 6th Form around the time of my A levels. Before you ask, this was the 80s and standard white shoes and big skirts were the FASHION!Nostalgia of school days and exams

On the subject of that 11+, I must have been around the same age as George is now, facing his SATs. My only memories of this event were as follows:- I was taken to a very large and unfamiliar seecondary school where many hundreds (it seemed) of other little girls were gathered with their parents and we sat in a hall full of strangers until our names were called. I had no real idea what this exam was for, nor why I was doing it. I am sure my parents must have explained it to me, but I was more interested in Black Beauty, so probably paid little attention. I remember being seated in a classroom with flip-up desks (this was quite a novelty in itself) and completing one paper on verbal reasoning (pretty easy) and then another with numerical puzzles (also pretty straight forward). Oh, is that it? I am sure my parents were anxious for me to do well, but I instantly forgot the whole affair and wondered why my Saturday morning’s Swap Shop had been forsaken for more lessons.

I wonder now if this is how George feels about his SATs? Of little real interest, a bit of a nuisance, and why the heck are my parents nervous about it? Good question.

And so the cycle was repeated, pretty much every year until the Big Ones. The O Levels. At 14 we made our subject choices – I would have dropped all science, history, geography and maths like a stone had I been allowed, and focused entirely on multiple languages, English and Art. Sadly, those in power were having none of it and 9 was the expected number of subjects to be taken, and passed. And so began my¬† years of conformity. Favourite subject – Latin. I know! Can’t remember a word of it now, but secured a healthy and easy ‘A’ grade in my O level. I even used to take part in Latin reading Competitions. I had no idea at the time that this was not the stuff of day to day normality. It’s just what we did at a Gals Grammar School, so I went along with it.

I clearly remember the horror of revision. That sick-to-the-stomach feeling on a Sunday night when you had to leave Top of the Pops and open your text books for a cramming session. It was like home-sickness. Dread and fear and the need of a mummy cuddle all rolled into one ache.

I had an irritatingly bright best friend, Lisa (we are still in touch even though she now resides in Canada) who did little or no revision and managed to leave school with a bucket full of ‘A’ grades in both her O and A levels. Tsccchh. Nothing below a B if I recall rightly. Why I remained friends with her I don’t know, she was way out of my league.

I was less fortunate, but I didn’t fail anything. The day the brown envelope arrived was even more tortuous than the exams themselves. Mum woke me with it in her hand, excited and nervous. I wanted to tell her to ‘get lost’ but she meant well. We opened and read the results together. Not bad. Not bad, old girl.

I had no idea until a few years ago that my mum had saved a huge pile of my school work. Exercise books full of Latin verb conjugations, Primary school paintings and stories, my art portfolio from A level, even my rough note book with scribbles and graffiti in it. What a treasure. She had proudly retained, amongst all this jumble, a large stiff envelope, backed with cardboard to keep its contents safe and unwrinkled. Inside it I found the certificates which declare my examination results from both my 1983 O levels and my 1985 A levels, and my school reports. Exam nostalgiaExam nostalgia

How many of you can say that you still have yours? These are precious treasures to me, and I am resolved to ensure that my own children will have a record of their development and school days to look back upon when they are grown.

As a child, events are fleeting and often forgotten or ignored, since their importance is misunderstood or overlooked. I know that my children will treasure these records, since they will revive lost memories in the years to come, and perhaps, just perhaps remind them of me when I am gone too.

Don’t waste time. Get it online now – it is the best gift you could ever give to your children. They just don’t know it yet.

It’s free to capture and share the memories of your whole life and the lives of your family at

“Life’s a Journey, SaveEveryStep”

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