English: A wall of "ema" votive plat...

A wall of “ema” votive plates offered by students praying to pass the entrance exam to Todai University nearby. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Its exam time here in the UK. A levels results were released last week and tomorrow the younger kids GCSEs will be published. No doubt these results will exhilarate some, as they see their plans begin to come to fruition, while plunging others into a very real despair and depression as they worry about their futures.

But the thing is. With the benefit of hindsight, and speaking as someone who went through the exam mill myself, they really don’t have to matter.

Of course, a demonstration of your ability to work, and to pass exams, to have the consistency to pass exams, is quite worthwhile when you’re young an haven’t yet built up a track record. But it’s not the only way to go.

Students taking a test at the University of Vi...

Students taking a test (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here are my top 10 reasons why exams don’t matter (so much)

1) I always hire for attitude and train for skills. I’d rather mold my people in my own image (ahem) than have people arrive fully formed and already knowing everything. And already making mistakes

2) Exams do not an education make. There is increasingly criticism, today even from teachers, that the way kids are taught gets them through exams as a paper work exercise designed to hit government targets rather than teaching them any useful skills.

3) Schools are set up to educate creativity OUT of kids. Not something that sets them up for a 21st century that has problems and job tasks more complicated that at any other period in human history.


4) Exams aren’t really relevant. If there is a key word for today its relevance. We’ve learned from Google and Facebook that relevance rules. We want it now, and we want it relevant. Are kids coming out of school with skill relevant for the time? Are they ready for work? Are they ready to set up their own enterprises? I’m not sure…

5) I’ve learned more through hobbies than I ever learned in school. I’m interested in a lot of things these days. Writing, history, science, entertainment etc. Free from the tyranny of the examination, I browse all sorts of material from books to websites and podcast  I’ve learned more from listening to Melvin Bragg talk to professors all over the country than I ever did nodding off in a lecture hall!

6) Exams come at the wrong time of life. As regards the last point, its only been as I’ve got older I’ve got really interested in learning. Childhood is for playing and enjoying ourselves, not spending years in a classroom wasting our energy and creativity.

7) There is no short cut to experience. Exams, or training for that matter, no matter how worthy, how thorough, how well thought out, cannot replace actually doing it, and learning how to do it, by doing it. In work, in life, in play, NOTHING substitutes for doing it, and getting better at it by doing it some more.

8) Focus, confidence and belief are most important. I’ve never got a job based on the qualifications I’ve achieved  They have all been about my ability to get results, and the ability to explain how I’d do it too.

9) A great man once told me, I needed a track record you can cash in on. Nothing will get you a job faster than showing someone all the successes you’ve previously had, and letting them imagine you having those successes on their behalf.

10) It’s NEVER too late. There is no rush. take your time and learn. You don’t have to do it when you are 16 or 18, or by the time you are 21. Learning is a LIFELONG activity. I’ll never stop. I have a voracious appetite for learning. But some people just haven’t started yet. That’s cool, start when you like, when you’re ready. Even if your 97 

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7 replies
  1. Paul Robinson
    Paul Robinson says:

    One of the things that came out of my brief stint as a trainer while in call centres (it was in addition to managing two teams .. ergo brief!), was how important it is to match a persons learning style. I can read as much as I like, but I retain almost nothing. I can sit and listen for ages – and pick up probably about half unless we break regularly. But engage me in a conversation or practical exercise and I will take away a good 80% of the info first off. I had colleagues who were the complete opposite. Another Team Manager could go to the learning zone (yes really) and do a 15 minute bite size course online and retain every word! The education system doesnt seem equipped for that…… its probably closer than its ever been in some respects, with BTEC style courses on top of vocational qualifications as well as traditional GCSE, A levels and degrees …. But I do wonder what kind of next generation we are breeding in schools. There seems to be massive gaps in understanding of culture, history, the world around them. But thats quite probably another blog!

  2. leftwingtendancies
    leftwingtendancies says:

    I am very stressed out, my first exam is tomorrow, i am revising like hell, but still nothing seems to go in, so seeing this really helped out a lot. So thanks. What i want to do at uni really won’t be proven by my exam grades. Personally I think that depending on the course universities should give an exam and judge it based on the passion, and commitment an applicant would show through said exam.

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