Like all the other 16- and 17-year-old students throughout the UK, my daughter Katie has been taking her end-of-year AS-level exams.

It’s very different from the American high school system in which a variety of different factors–homework, quizzes, midterms, finals, class participation, labs, group projects–factor first into the semester grades and then into the final grade.

Some American high school teachers have grading down to a fine art, with Excel spreadsheets that calculate students’ performance on various elements and their relevant importance, resulting in a final percentage which can then be translated into a grade.

It’s not like that in England.  Katie’s grades depend almost solely on how she does on two year-end tests for each of her four subjects.  (In the UK, students start to specialize at age 16, narrowing down to four related subjects that they want to study at “uni” (“university,” which in America translates to “college”).  For what it’s worth, I much prefer the American system in which students declare a major at the end of sophomore year in college when they’re 19 or 20.  How many 16-year-olds know what they want to do the next weekend, let alone with their life?)

In terms of Katie’s courses, 40% of her grade for photography comes from her teachers, and 20% of her biology grade comes from the labs, but even so that leaves 60% of her grade for photography, 80% for biology, 100% for history, and 100% for psychology TOTALLY in the hands of unknown strangers grading her end-of-year tests.

She’s been putting in an amazing number of hours studying, and has even stopped running track for three weeks in order to have six more hours a week to study.  In the past, I’ve only seen her this serious about her sports, but she has become, in her word, a “beast.”

She’s even told me to insert a secret password into her Facebook account and not tell her what it is until after her exams. This is in contrast to her first several months here when she was Skyping her friends back in Boston for 3-4 hours a night–that is, until her teachers asked her if she was here to “have a good time” or to do well, which brought about a 180-degree change in attitude.

Earlier this afternoon she took her last exam–the second psychology test.

I’m just the teensiest bit anxious because these grades, which are basically from the all-important junior year, will have a huge impact on whether she gets into the colleges she wants to go to.

A text comes through:

“I think I did enough to get an A!”

I take a deep breath. We won’t know for sure until the grades come out in August, but she generally has a pretty good idea of how she’s done.

Beast!

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