Easy A

Context: LJ, a former student of a private all-girls school in London revealed to me a unique legend that circulated during her time there. With biennial exams being the center of their curriculum, LJ explained how a legend came about amongst the students to unify themselves during the stress of exams and to make humor out of the extreme pressures that were being put on them as these 2 sets of exams were the sole indicators of their academic achievements within school to show off to higher level learning institutions.

Text: “I went to a private all girls school in London where we would have to take national standardized tests at the end of every 2 years for different classes. At the end of year 11 we would take our GCSE’s which were a bunch of exams on the classes we had been taking for the past 2 years and at the end of year 13 we would take our A levels, which were exams based on the 3 subjects we had been exclusively studying for those past two years.Throughout those 4 years from year 10-13 there was this legend that if someone died in the exam room whilst a GCSE or A-Level took place then everyone in the room would get an A* or a 9(the highest grade depending on if A-Level or GCSE). There was also a similar concept of if someone went into labor during the exam then that person would receive an A* or 9 as well. During exam/ study times there would be lots of jokes made surrounding someone “taking one for the team” implying a student taking the exam should literally sacrifice themselves in the room so that the entire class can get a perfect grade. Similarly, 9 months before those exams girls would make jokes about needing to get pregnant so they could time their birthing to be during an exam. All this being said, this ideology was never confirmed by any teacher or exam board but was commonly known across the London private school kids as the loophole to getting a perfect grade on an exam.”

Analysis: I believe that this legend works as a testimony to the British educational system’s impact on student well-being. It shows how the pursuit of academic excellence can lead to unhealthy levels of competition and that the humor in this legend serves as a rebellion against the system, poking fun at sacrificing the life of a classmate to attain a good grade. This underscores both the rigorous level of academia that students in this system seemed to be struggling with, but also the collective wish for a miraculous escape from the pressures of exam taking. Ultimately I think this legend is a reminder of the need for balance in educational pursuit and the importance of addressing issues involving mental health and general wellbeing of students.