Dear Diary – Page 55 (Early 1960’s – G.C.E. Results)

The G.C.E. “O” Level examinations were scheduled before the Summer holidays, with an option to re-take any subjects as necessary before the Christmas holidays. As I was not due to start College in Cardiff until January 1964, that would be very convenient if I had problems!

During the summer holidays, I received an envelope containing my G.C.E. “O” Level Certificate. Only one subject, English Language, was listed. I remember so well the disappointment as the reality set in that I had failed all but one subject. Even Art! I used be at, or very close to, the top of Art class throughout my 5 years at school. How could I have possibly failed Art?

I cannot remember too much being said around the home, but clearly I was going back to school after the summer holidays!

That final term of school was totally dedicated to those failed subjects. I questioned my Art teacher about how I could possibly have failed but, not being involved in the markings of these examinations*, he had no answer.

I cannot remember the details of the Art examination, but do seem to recall that they included a “Still life”, “Human Study”, and an “Imaginative Painting” . The latter involved making a selection from a short list of subjects provided, one of which was “A Day at the Seaside”. My painting was a view along a typical English pier, showing the various amusement stalls and lots of colored lamps strung along the length of the pier. There were crowds of people just milling around the stalls. I recall being very pleased with the way it  looked and had no doubts that my Art was an easy “O” Level.

In my second attempt at Art I took the choice of “Market Day”. I had already concluded that marking art was a very subjective process which was clearly complicated by personal taste, and so I deliberately chose “Market Day” because I could simply repeat my “A Day at the Seaside” painting. Instead of amusement stalls, I had produce (vegetables etc) stalls. The lighting and everything else was as close as I could get to my original painting. In my own way, I guess I was either protesting, or testing (probably both!) the “system”.

Just before Christmas, I received an envelope containing my G.C.E. “O” Level Certificate covering the second set of examinations. Listed on it were English Literature, French, Art and Mathematics! I had my required 5 including Mathematics and English Language! That result said so much about the integrity and/or validity of marking Art!

*I believe that the marking of “O” Level examinations was distributed around various schools such that no school teacher would be marking papers from their own school.

18 thoughts on “Dear Diary – Page 55 (Early 1960’s – G.C.E. Results)

  1. Wow! I can only imagine how upset you must have been at first, and some I believe would have totally given up, but not you! You persevered and you were rewarded for your effort. I am thinking that you were pretty happy with your 2nd round of test scores! A great Christmas gift! 🙂 I would say you could have gone out on your bicycle and taken a victory ride, but it was probably pretty cold then.

    Do you still have any pieces of your artwork? I really liked the train you drew and would like to see more if you have them.

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    • That train pen/ink drawing is all I have. I did do an oil painting of an MGB for my ex’s uncle back in the 70’s. I have a pic of it somewhere. I also did a gymnast for Mel, and the painting for “Journey Through a Picture”.

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      • If you come across the oil painting that would be nice to see.
        Oh yes, can’t forget the “Journey Through a Picture” painting!
        I think you maybe should try your hand at painting again, you never know. 🙂

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        • Sadly no time currently. I have not picked up a guitar recently; had neither my road nor mountain bike out; done no running, and have a list of things “to do” above all those things! Just not enough hours in the day to do all the things that I would like to do!


  2. My children will tell me I’m wrong, but I am sure the exams used to be a lot harder in the days of the old ‘O’ levels. Do you think failing most of them the first time round actually did you some good, made you more determined?

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    • Hi Mir – I think they were a valuable lesson in disappointment; how to deal with it; how to move past it. I really don’t think that I was any more determined because I believe that I did my best (and you cannot do better than that can you.).

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    • To be honest Kate, I really don’t know. I was, in general, an average student and not being in any social groups, I have no idea how other students did. I probably could have done better if I had been allowed to focus on the subjects that mattered to me rather than being forced to take all of them. I know I “burned a lot of midnight oil” in preparation for them, and that would have made the results even more disappointing.

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