It was all smiles at Dundee High School as pupils celebrated an exam results day like no other.
With formal exams cancelled this year due to the pandemic, the 2021 grades have been determined by teachers based on assessments in school.
And unlike previous years, where pupils would have to anxiously wait on an email, text or the post before they knew how well they had done, youngsters already knew their provisional grades – having been told before the summer break.
Today’s results from the Scottish Qualifications Authority brought confirmation of these.
Among those waiting on their finals grades were Dundee High School students Sneha Sripada, 16, Sophie Elder, 17, and Sahar Jafferbhoy, 16.
All three pupils were delighted to have achieved top grades, with Sneha and Sophie bagging five As in their Highers and Sahar getting 8 As in her National 5 exams.
Their results cap off what has been tumultuous year in education, with pupils across Scotland having to contend with periods of home learning and then sitting assessments to help determine their final grades when they returned.
Sophie said: “It was quite worrying with it being such an important year grades wise, and not really knowing what to expect and how things were going to go.
“We didn’t know when we left school (for the Christmas break) that it would be online again, so I think because we weren’t prepared for that, it was quite a shock at the time.
“And it went on for a lot longer than we expected.”
Sahar added: “It was quite stressful to start with, with the uncertainty of what was going to happen and what format the exams would be.
“But once it was clarified it became a lot easier and it ended up going quite well and I’m happy with how they ended up.
“I got to enjoy my summer, especially after such a stressful year.”
Sneha and Sophie are now both planning to apply for medicine and have their sights set on heading to either Glasgow or Edinburgh University.
And already having an idea of what grades they had achieved allowed the soon-to-be sixth years to start planning ahead.
Sneha said: “Knowing your results in advance, especially in fifth year when you are looking to apply for university, is so helpful.
“For example, I really want to prepare for the UCAT at the moment and if I know I have the grades for medicine, I can spend time preparing for that.”
Should exams be scrapped?
The Scottish Government is set to make a decision later this month on whether the 2022 exams will go ahead.
But there were mixed opinions among the Dundee High pupils over whether exams should stay in the future, or be replaced with continuous assessments.
Sneha said: “I think having regular assessments is not a bad idea, providing you get enough notice and time between them.
“It does take the pressure off having a final exam and means it’s not just all based on one thing.”
Sophie, however, believes the experience of sitting an exam could help pupils in the long run.
She said: “On the other hand, I think it’s important that we do have that experience before we leave school because when we go out into the bigger world, there will be things that we have to do on the day.
“So, it would be good to experience that now so we are prepared for that.”
“An extraordinarily demanding and challenging year”
Rector Lise Hudson, said: “This has been an extraordinarily demanding and challenging year for all our young people and their teachers.
“I am immensely proud of how the whole community has responded. It’s difficult to articulate how much extra work it has meant for teachers and also the administrative staff.
“Pupils have found ways to stay connected, take responsibility and excel, producing their best work despite all the uncertainty and shifting sands.”