As Year 12 end of year exams loom near and the stress slowly but surely climbs higher with each day that passes, many students have been wondering whether or not exams - especially mock exams - are useful, and if they actually increase the mental stress that already comes with being an A-Level student in sixth form.

With about 5-6 weeks to go until our exams begin, my classmates and I have been talking about very little else. Our conversations seem to both open and close with the phrase, “I can’t believe they’re so soon, we only have some weeks left!”. Or, even when talking about things completely separate from exams like what our holiday plans or our favourite TV shows are, the topic of exams still hangs above our head and eerily creeps in like a scary gush of wind crawling on our backs in the middle of nowhere. After all, we’re reminded of the harsh reality that holidays and time to watch our favourite shows will come only after we go through the excruciating, infuriating and trying period of exams.

Some students may find exams incredibly difficult and to be overall a bad experience, which is very understandable - they increase mental and emotional stress and we feel deflated the moment we feel we’ve performed horribly, or worse, the moment we find out through our results that we really didn’t do well. However, some people would argue that (mock) exams, while they do mean we revise rigorously and lose hair in the process, are incredibly useful as they let us know what to practise the most and what we need to improve on. They act as a stepping stone on the path to success: we need to know where we go wrong in order to know how to be right.

Moreover, something that may need to be talked about more is the fact that in exam periods, students actually feel and get closer to one another - through feeling the same stress, doing the same questions, asking one another how they feel and encouraging each other with phrases like “you’ve got this!” or “you’re a genius, don’t worry”. In fact, some (including myself) would say exams could actually help us feel more confident: we don’t feel as alone as we know other classmates are going through the same things and although this is somewhat over the top, the pain of exam stress is almost like shared trauma, something which in the long run can help us get along with one another instead of thinking of everyone else as our competitors.

Yet, some people would say it’s wrong to subject ourselves to tests and exams and end of years and mocks and the like - these tests and our results are not proper indicators of our intelligence. Instead, our intelligence can be found in the way we communicate with others, our common sense or the way we normally recall information from our minds (not after memorising a textbook to parrot it back like a robot for a 2-hour mental workout). Moreover, there is the inevitable effect that exams have on our self-confidence, as we view ourselves through our results, mere numbers. These grades, while they show what we should improve on, should not act as personality or intelligence indicators.

It’s important to understand that exams are quite helpful, yet we as students shouldn’t stress too much about them. After all, it’s only some questions that we should prepare for and try answering as best as we can. And if we don’t do as well as we would like, then there is simply nothing to do but try, try again. End of year exams are coming, and while I may not exactly love the stress they come with, I’ll see this time as an opportunity to enhance my abilities, not as an insult to them.