Tuesday, 19 May 2015


It's exam season, and I thought I would share what effect having cancer has had on my education and exams. I'm in Year 12 in the UK, meaning that I would usually being sitting my AS exams, but under recommendation of my school I'm not, and the reason why, I think, is unfair.
With exams boards you can apply for something called "mitigating circumstances" - a reason why you fail to perform to expected standards in the exams. This can cover anything from a recent death of a friend or relative to serious illness. I could have applied for this, and I would have received an additional 4% that would have been added to my score from each exam. That is not much at all, and would be unlikely to have pushed me into the next grade, so is ultimately pointless. What really annoys me though is that if you have a broken leg, you would receive 3%. Yes, that broken leg would be a bit annoying, and perhaps a bit of a distraction, but the fact that going from a broken leg to cancer is only worth 1% is a bit offensive to be honest! I'd like to argue that being diagnosed with cancer has much more of an emotional and physical impact on a young person than a broken leg, which is often back to normal in 2 or 3 months.
I'd completed around 3/4 of the work on the syllabus and had also completed Chemistry and English coursework to on or near my target grade for both subjects, and I take Maths and Government and Politics of which I had completed several assessments to the standard of my target grade. What I don't understand is why the exam boards couldn't have just given me my target grade for each subject and allowed me to have continued as normal - there is work I have completed to that standard. It shows a lack of trust in schools, as they would suspect the work hadn't of been completed on my own etc. All they have done is kicked me when I'm down.
What angers me further is that there will be others in my situation. In some ways I am lucky in the sense that I already have my GCSEs, so I can choose to leave at any time if I decide to - whereas those taking GCSEs have no choice, and may be held back a year through no fault of their own.
I now face taking my AS and A2 exams all at the same time in June 2016 - which I am aware is no mean feat. I'm going to drop English Literature to make it easier for myself so I stand a chance of getting the grades I want. I'd like to do Politics and Economics at University, so just taking the 3 subjects I need and hopefully getting the grades I want in those will (again) hopefully be enough. My treatment may run into the next academic year, but fingers crossed I will be able to carry on in September where I left off. My school have been fantastic which has been a great help - they are willing to accommodate me whatever happens and whatever I decide to do in September.
I understand that the rules are in place so that people don't abuse the system, because there will always be some who try. However, it would not be hard for them to ring the hospital where I am getting treated to confirm the situation. Surely there must be a better way, so that young people like me aren't punished further by 'Having cancer' which is ultimately outside of their control.


  1. I can sympathise with your frustration Tash. Mitigating circumstances is a very messy compromise at best. Given the situation I would take a different perspective on dealing with it. A year may seem like a long time, but it isn't in the grand scheme of things. I would work to get the qualifications I had as my original goal. Unlike re-sits or re-taking a year without sitting exams, taking all or some examinations later after an enforced interruption to study caused by illness will have no bearing whatsoever on the perceived value of the qualifications achieved. They scarcely ever did for employers, but under the circumstances I cannot imagine any educational establishment regarding any delayed examination results in any way differently.

    Mull over your options and talk to as many people as you can who can give an informed opinion. I believe you don't need to reach a hasty conclusion about the best strategy. Kind regards, Geoff

  2. Hi Tash, Geoff makes some very valid points. You sound like a very bright young lady, and although having the upheaval of your treatment, stress will not be good for you at any stage. However, being the intellectual person that you are, you can continue without pressure to revise which will stand you in good stead for next year. Cup half full rather than cup half empty! The world is still your oyster, it just may take a little longer to reach the pearl X