Stop telling students their exams 'don't matter' - they do to them 6 years ago

Stop telling students their exams 'don't matter' - they do to them

Ugh, exam season.

Just the thought of the Leaving Cert could cause someone who's ten or even 20 years out of school to break out in a total sweat, such is the pressure associated with it.

We all had our own methods to get through this stressful period, from eating all around us to drinking herbal drops from the health shop to combat nerves (thanks, Mum).

There's plenty of advice and 'words of wisdom' floating around too, with everyone from your parents to your neighbour's cousin's cat chipping in with their two cents.

Everyone who has something to say means well, of course, but perhaps the least constructive and honestly most insulting phrase ever is "sure, your Leaving Cert doesn't matter anyway!"


Sorry, what? It doesn't matter?

So all of this effort counts for nothing? The stacks of notes and flashcards, the sleepless nights, the sheer stress of it all DOESN'T matter? Well thanks for your input, Brenda.


Of course, anyone who tells you it doesn't matter is just trying to be supportive and alleviate last minute nerves, which is nice. But really, it's the equivalent of telling someone who's having a panic attack to calm down - it's unhelpful and kind of patronising.


Those who say it doesn't matter are partly right - in the grand scheme of things, no, your Leaving Cert doesn't matter. There are back doors, second chances and ways around everything.

The single greatest flaw our education system has is scaring generations of teenagers into believing that their futures rest on a single set of exams. No wonder young people struggle so much with mental health, given the crushing pressure they're put under.

But regardless of how much it really 'matters' in general, the fact is that if you're heading in for English Paper 2 tomorrow, your Leaving Cert matters to you. It's all you've been told about for at least the past two years at school. You've worked your ass off and you'd really like things to go your way.


What we should instead tell students is that the Leaving Cert won't matter.

It won't matter when you’re in college or when you’re working, when you’re in your twenties, thirties and beyond.

But now? Yeah, of course it does. To you.

Nerves are natural, and if you’re in the middle of exams, someone telling you they don't matter is insulting.

So how about this - just do you for the next two to three weeks. Feel whatever you’re going to feel and ignore the hype.

As you grow up, you'll find that people will have lots of 'words of advice' for every stage of life. You won't listen to what they have to say then anyway, so why start now?