Mail reporter goes back to school for exam piece

The Birmingham Evening Mail decided to put A-levels to the test by sending one of its own reporters back to school.

Women’s
editor Diane Parkes returned to the school where she studied, Queen
Mary’s High in Walsall, to retake an English Literature A-level.

The
37-year-old reporter had gained an ‘A’ grade when she first took the
exam in 1986 – and matched it with an ‘A’ grade this time around.

“Every
year the A-level results come out and every year all these stuffed
shirts who haven’t sat an exam in decades claim they are easier,” said
Parkes. “I thought the best way to really find out was to actually sit
one.”

She crammed the course into nine months of home study, spending holidays reading the texts and weekends doing test essays.

“It was a lot of work for one feature,” she said. “But I think it was worth the effort, as it actually allowed us to test the system rather than just talk about it.

“Sitting
alongside all those nervous 18-year-olds in my old school hall was a
strange experience and it was weird having no one to compare answers
with. Even though the result didn’t matter, I was still nervous as hell
when I went to pick up my grades from the school.”

And her
verdict? “This English Literature exam certainly wasn’t any easier than
the one I took 19 years ago, but if you know the system there are ways
of improving your grade.”

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