AQA, OCR, Pearson, Eduqas and CAIE – students across the country have got some stern words for you. They’ve got a grade 9 question for you and it’s: “Do you think your exams are possible?” The only correct answer is, “Absolutely not.”

With the new year comes a new set of exam candidates, all preparing to sit what will probably be the most important test of their lives up until this point. These exams are called GCSEs (or International GCSEs for some), and they tend to be extremely difficult for numerous reasons.

Most schools require students to take nine or ten subjects, resulting in students having to sit anywhere between twenty to thirty exams in the summer. But the hardest part for many are the actual exams themselves.

Spread across the course of two months, the period of sitting GCSEs is one that is long and arduous. The majority of students will have had what are called ‘Mock’ exams at school, between October and January, to familiarise themselves with the procedure. In light of these exams however, students have found one glaring issue: 

The timings for some exams are simply impossible!

Most exams allow for a mark per minute with an extra ten or so minutes for checking answers. This seems ideal and a reasonable amount, until you add in the surmount pressure, dire stakes and incomprehensible wordy questions. Especially ones that require an essay style answer.

Many students find it difficult to successfully complete exams such as AQA’s Religious Studies, CAIE’s IGCSE Design and Technology (paper 1 specifically) and Edexcel’s Drama. Try writing four essays in an hour and a half and see how that goes. These exams are the main culprits of not giving enough time for the tasks that are required, resulting in a harder paper which tends to be very discouraging to students.

Whilst everyone admits GCSEs are not meant to be very easy, certain exams feel as though they were made to catch students out. They should be challenging, but still possible. We all implore exam boards to give us just fifteen more minutes!