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Modular myths

There is only one thing worse than January "mocks", and that is the real thing: A-level modules. The myth is that modular equals easy. Tiddly bits to learn, lots of retake chances. "A" grades guaranteed. I wish.

Doing badly enough to need a retake whacks your confidence. It is actually not surprising if you do badly, because modules expect A-level performance, even if you are only three months out of GCSE nappies.

But a bad result - not even a fail, just a bad result - makes you wonder if you did the wrong subject. Stop now, change A-levels while there is time. Transfer to an examine-it-all-together-in-June subject. I know people who have done it right up to the end of the lower sixth.

Maybe you are just thick? If so, modulars keep telling you for two years instead of one in that final August.

Maybe you were ill? There must be a statistical increase in the likelihood of being ill at exam time if they are strung out over two years, even if it is only because you broke bones playing rugby.

And maybe you did badly because stuff got in the way. You know, plays and teams and choirs and orchestras and concerts and debates and being a prefect, the kind of "stuff" schools expect and UCAS forms love. So would you, if only it were not for these blasted exams that seem to be forever in your face.

Even more so if you are into retakes, which can be a lonely business. If your school is able to organise retake classes, you are lucky. Many cannot - and no wonder. How can you time-table classes that might be needed and might not?

Maybe some candidates will need them, but others will not. And what do you teach a class where half passed the last part with flying colours, but half want another go?

June candidates may not get any chance of a retake, but they do get study leave before and then days off between exams.

Modular candidates sneak exams into normal school days, often going straight from the exam to a classroom where Sir is hopping because you have just missed half his double lesson and his stuff has fallen off your plate this week. Nightmare.

January for me does not mean "mocks" after the Christmas festivities; it means seven modules. I know examinees usually whinge, but I just want the world to know that modules are not a doddle, they do not guarantee "A" grades for idiots, and they seem just as traumatic to the poor candidates as life-affecting, full-blown summer exams ever did. And the next person who even hints that they are easy gets a biff.

John Moriarty is taking A-levels in maths, further maths, chemistry and physics - all modular.

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