You Are More Than a Grade

Have you seen this letter? It’s brilliant. A school in the UK has written to its pupils to give them their SATS results, and to remind them that grades are not the only things that count.

They are right. Grades are okay. They give you an idea of what you know and where you are at in your schooling. They are what decide where you will head in the future. But they are not you. They do not rate your intelligence or personality.

During my first exam period at university, I came across a misleading question in the Italian grammar exam. It wasn’t clear which tense we should be translating a certain paragraph into. After the exam, half of the room had translated into one tense, and half into another. It was frustrating. If I had picked the wrong tense, I would be evaluated as incapable of using the tense the examiners had been looking for. I knew both tenses and could use them both with ease, yet I would be graded on this one exercise, this one fluke, this one misunderstanding.

Exams results are not purely based on your knowledge of a certain subject. They can also depend on your mood, your confidence, or the rumbling in your tummy. You may be feeling tired, your dog may have died that morning, you are perhaps worried about the zillion other exams you have to pass, or maybe the person sitting next to you has decided to eat his snack a little too loudly.

It’s hard being graded on one sole attempt. I didn’t get the amazing grade in A2 Level English Literature that I wanted, because that particular exam happened to be really, really hard and the question was one I knew the least about. What the examiners didn’t know is that I am a person who adores literature. I read a book every week and never sleep without one beneath my pillow. I underline words and sentences I love, compare writing styles, learn and ask so much based on what I have read. I go to talks about literature and writing and practically live in Waterstones. I research the lives of the authors I love and wonder how they lived their own literature loving lives.

My younger brother has often had trouble at school, probably because school requires you to sit still in a state of boredom for 7 hours a day. What his teachers don’t know is that his head is brimming with facts and theories and he knows things that haven’t even crossed the minds of many adults. He has a passion for filmmaking, cartoon drawing and storylines. If my brother was graded purely on his personality, curiosity and love for his interests and aspirations , he would be an A*.

As I have said in previous posts, I am aiming for a 1st in my degree but I don’t want to do it by memorising facts and working to the system. I refuse to get a 1st purely based on my exam performance. I want it to be based on my knowledge and what I take away from my 4 years spent studying. Work hard. Get good grades. But don’t let them define you. Sometimes it’s okay to have a novel or a how- to manual, some art or your latest invention hidden behind that textbook.

“Grades don’t mean you can’t read, write, or think. They don’t show whether you can find out how to do something you believe in and then follow through and do it. They don’t show the most fundamental aspect of intelligence- whether you learn from your experiences and ‘mistakes.’ They don’t show whether you love with courage, compassion, intelligence, curiosity, or common sense. Even in a objective scientific sense, grades and test scores are not accurate measurements of your intelligence.” – Grace Llewellyn

Remember. There is more to you than grades can tell.



  1. Thanks for reading and liking a post on my blog. I’ve really enjoyed this post – and the letter to the KS2 kids, which I hadn’t seen before.
    I taught Year 6 for ages, and finally got out because the school system was not something I could support any longer.
    I look forward to following your journey through university.
    All the best, Jan x


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