Tag Archives: O Level

December 9th 1974

“Started to write in Dairy again. Occasional Holiday from School. Went to Southampton and bought Xmas Cards Pressies. Wrote some Xmas Cards to people”

Somewhat ironically given the content of this entry, this would prove to be my last scribblings in the 1974 diary.

Annoyingly, the dearth of entries over the summer, autumn and winter periods means that I am unable to properly express my reaction to starting sixth form college following the “ahem* successes of my O-Level results.

I can tell you that I opted to continue at Barton Peveril, which was still in its transition stage from being a Secondary School into a full Sixth Form College.

The new school year meant that I joined the “1st year 6th”, bringing with it both freedom from any kind of school uniform and a whole influx of new friends (and some foes). The college brought 16 or 17 year-old kids in from the surrounding secondary schools and with some of those people a new set of influences and distractions arrived. (The distractions were generally housed in a female form)

I chose a peculiar triumvirate of ‘A’ (Advanced) Level subjects to study. The first was Technical Drawing, something I vaguely enjoyed at Ordinary Level and one of the few subjects I successfully passed. The second was Art, not because I was in any way talented in the subject (I wasn’t) but because I felt it would be a subject in which I could express myself as well as gather with people who, like me, were interested in music and films. (I was also eager to become a “graphic artist”, my head doubtless swayed by the works of record sleeve designers such as Roger Dean or photographers like Mick Rock)

My third subject was an undoubted mistake. I took English Literature. I think I stuck with it one term (semester) before dumping it off my schedule (the 1975 diary may prove enlightening in this respect). I quickly realised that none of the literature we were exploring in the classes was material I was even vaguely interested in reading, let alone discussing.

The (eventual) lack of all those English lessons meant I had many mornings and afternoons free to spend around other like-minded ‘slackers’ in the college’s “common room” a space put aside where people congregated to drink tea/coffee, play records and generally do very little other than lounge about on vinyl-upholstered chairs and sofas.

I do believe that this “common room” – somewhere I shall probably refer to regularly during 1975 and early 1976 – was more of a place of ‘education’ for me than any of the classrooms. Here, I listened to more music than I could ever imagine and was introduced to lots of new (to me) stuff like R&B, Soul and early German electronica. I interacted with not only my own ‘lower sixth’ classmates but also those students who were a year older in the ‘upper sixth’. I started to come out of my shell more and was able to express myself without feeling reserved or withdrawn. In short, I guess my time in the 6th Form helped me to “grow up”?!

In terms of this project I can’t help feeling – as you may – disappointed that my 1974 diary yielded so little. However, I hope what I have managed to share has been fun to read and that you’ve found my meanderings a satisfactory and entertaining distraction.

On then… to 1975…


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August 20th 1974

“Got 5 ‘O’s including Spok. English”

Let’s review these results shall we?…..

Economics: Grade F FAIL
E.Lit. Syll.B: Grade E PASS (English Literature Syllabus B)
Physics: Grade F FAIL
Eng. Language: Grade E PASS (English Language)
Geography: Grade F FAIL
Rel.Studies: F FAIL (Religious Studies)
Spok. English: C PASS (Spoken English)
History: E PASS
Tech. Drawing: E PASS (Technical Drawing)

The back of the actual certificate (shown below) states “Attainment in an Ordinary level subject is indicated by a Grade A, B, C, D, or E of which Grade A is the highest and Grade E the lowest……. Grade E is the lowest level of attainment judged by the University to be of sufficient standard to be recorded

I think it’s fair to admit I was…. a somewhat less than an average student who somehow managed to barely SQUEAK by in some of these important examinations. It feels astonishing to me now that I could apply myself quite admirably the year earlier and take/pass Mathematics quite easily (albeit also with an “E PASS” grade) but then when the rest came around I was phenomenally sloppy and without any personal application.

I’m surprised in retrospect that I failed Economics (it being something I dealt with quite successfully later in my career) and amazed that I completely stumbled in Physics when, just 2 years earlier, I was flying high in the subject and was first in my class.

No surprises regarding Geography (my wife is nodding her head as I type) or Religious Studies. I don’t think the *ahem* things I was ‘studying’ during my church retreats were necessarily likely to turn up on the exam paper?

I’m afraid I can only be flippant about all of this 36 years after the event. I can’t be convinced that passing more of these O-Levels would have changed my life that much so there’s no point in being regretful after the event is there?

In a nutshell I seemed to adopt ‘slackerdom’ at an early age?!


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June 19th 1974


I can only apologise.

A true diarist would have waxed lyrically about the pressures and frustrations surrounding these important examinations. About how he or she was uncertain about how they had done, whether they had done enough revision and preparation, whilst simultaneously expressing their feelings of nervousness upon entering the exam hall.

Instead, this ‘diarist’ made scant-to-no reference to the exams during their progress and decided to dismiss one of them as “quite a laugh”

But it’s not detail you keep tuning into EFA70sTRO for, is it?

Instead it’s for a daily dose of……… well, what exactly?

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June 18th 1974

“Had geography – all good for a laugh. TD – not bad; not good but not bad”

Remember, if you will, that these were my bona fide GCE O Levels we are talking about here.

Not the end of year exams or the o-level ‘mocks’ but probably the most IMPORTANT examinations of my entire scholastic career. I am 16 years old and these are exams that would/could determine my eventual educational destination after Barton Peveril and/or my entire life’s path.

So with that in mind lets recap shall we?….. Geography was “good for a laugh” and Technical Drawing was dismissed as “not good but not bad

Was the term ‘slacker’ even in use back in 1974?

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June 17th 1974

“Really tried to do some Geography revision for O Level but somehow couldn’t get going”

…. and so it came to pass that on this day in 1974 I would set myself up to be ‘geographically-challenged’ for the rest of my adult life.

I really am too.

There are days when its surprising I find my way downstairs in the morning. Some people – my friend Malc for instance – appear to have a built-in compass in their noggin, instinctively able to know which direction they’re facing and which way they need to go to get anywhere.

I possess whatever is the exact opposite of that.

I have become lost more times than I am EVER able to admit to.

Which is why when my wife bought me a Garmin GPS machine a couple of years ago it was like she was gifting me an “affair to remember”. Emily, for that is what I named my GPS, loves having her buttons pushed and then taking me all the way.

If ONLY I could have “got going” back in 1974…. *sigh*

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December 4th (II)

Told that I would take Maths O’Level

No, Maths O’Level is not the imaginary vocalist in an Irish rock band.

More correctly, an “O-Level” refers to one of the set of GCE (General Certificate of Education) exams we took at school in the 70’s.

We all did a set subjects through our (high) school education and at age 16 took exams in each of them. When we later applied for work we were supposed to list the subjects we passed, and the grades we attained with each of those passes. (Grades, as I recall, we marked from A to E as a ‘pass’ grade, with F meaning a failure)

As far as I can gather, the American equivalent of a GCE is like coming out at the end of High School with a diploma, albeit one split into different courses/subjects. (A series of mini diplomas?)

Like American diplomas and/or SAT’s the scores we got could also assist us when we applied for college or university places.

My diary entry referred to the fact that I was being permitted to take my Mathematics GCE O-Level a year or two earlier than other students, presumably as a result of the scores I was getting in class.

I will doubtless mention this again later on in my diaries, so I’ll save the stories of my success (or lack thereof) until the pertinent forthcoming dates.

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