There are many markers of the arrival of late summer: the abundance of strawberries, the cultural delights of the Edinburgh Festival, the return of the Premier League.
One date that always makes my heart skip a beat is the announcement of the A-Levels results. How quickly I am transported back to my own anxious wait, and that giddy moment when I opened the envelope containing the results.
For this year's cohort in England, the level of pressure has been heightened. Under a new system, brought in by the former Education Secretary Michael Gove in 2015 with the intention of making the exams more "fit for purpose,” students sit all A-level exams at the end of two years of study, instead of taking modular exams throughout the course. This means that AS-level results no longer count towards A-Level grades, no subject will have more than a 20% coursework component, and most courses will be assessed entirely through exams. Time will tell if this approach produces students better prepared for the rigours of university education, as is hoped.
Earlier this week, the OSCE results were also announced. The College of Optometrists told OT that the pass rate for the final assessment was 70%, which is in line with the previous year’s pass rates.
In OT’s regular series with two pre-registrants, we have been charting the highs and lows in the build-up to the all-important exam.
For Hassnain Safdar, the year disappeared in a flash: “I can still remember flicking through the Scheme for Registration handbook at the start of my pre-reg and looking at the OSCE section at the back thinking, ‘Oh that’s a long while away.’ Little did I know how fast the pre-reg period would go and how soon I’d be thinking about sitting the OSCEs.”
One student who has to work even harder than most to achieve her optometry degree is Vithiya Alphons. Diagnosed with leukaemia in 2015 days before returning to Cardiff to embark on her final year of study, Ms Alphons was forced to take a year out of university and spent 10 months receiving treatment.
Speaking to OT earlier this month, Ms Alphons explained that graduating had been an extraordinary moment.
“I couldn’t even concentrate on the ceremony. Images were flashing before my eyes of last year when I couldn’t walk, I had no hair. To go from not being able to have a bath or dress myself on my own to graduating – I can’t describe it.”