Your Exam Results Won't Define the Rest of Your Life: Apprentice Finalist Claire Young Explains Why

16 August 2017

Hastily placing your pen down for your last exam and knowing that your work is done – no more revision, no more sleepless nights, no more dissecting a paper post exam – the feeling is priceless. The satisfaction that your exam period is complete and now all you have to do is sit back and wait.

In the meantime, you can throw yourself into a summer of fun – I had the best summers as a teenager - until reality started to kick back in. RESULTS DAY looms; 17th August for A Levels and 24th August for GCSEs. My heart goes out to all of those who will have a sleepless night before the dreaded day.

I’m  sure that many of us can cast our minds back to those tentative few weeks in August spent eagerly awaiting exam grades. These newly gained qualifications which will be your passport onto a new pathway; whether it be a university course, a place at college/sixth form, a job or an apprenticeship. Whatever the outcome, the pressure is definitely on.

"These newly gained qualifications which will be your passport onto a new pathway"

The pressure comes from all angles; from parents, friends, school, college and most of all from yourself. You want to do your best, make everyone proud and hope that what’s inside the results envelope is a dream come true – and not a complete nightmare.

For many, results day will be a traumatic experience, young people are under such an enormous amount of pressure and expected to make huge decisions at very emotional times. For those heading to university look at how you made this decision, it may have been made almost a year ago and it doesn't have to define you. Life changes with circumstances and you have to be adaptable, it’s survival of the fittest.

Be brave, if results aren't what you expected or you have changed in the last year and now want something different, then do it! Defer entry, travel, change your course just don't feel trapped into doing something that isn't right for you.

"Exam results do not define you as a person and they certainly don’t define the rest of your life."

The fact is though, exam assessment is not the best measure for everyone, yet unfortunately, it’s the only benchmark used in today’s education to value someone’s success and worth.

Einstein hit the nail on the head with this quote:

“Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Students have different skills, knowledges, and attributes so if we only judge them from a simple grade on a piece of paper, are we missing out the big picture? Most importantly, are we losing valuable future talent from the workplace?

As someone who works in schools across the country – after having founded School Speakers the UK’s largest speaking agency working with schools, colleges and universities – I have a great insight into education  whilst at the same time running a business which tries to recruit young people.

For most schools OFSTED is the Holy Grail, the pressure for students to achieve certain grades (the ‘tick the box’ of 5 GCSE passes) and attainment is the drilled into staff and students every day – so much so that many teachers are drowning in unnecessary paperwork and in doing so are forgetting their passion to teach.

Claire is the founder of School Speakers

Schools have become like huge factories churning out young people with basic qualifications, ticking the box that they’ve achieved their 5 GCSEs (or equivalent) but sadly, for most employers the young generation they see are not work ready. So, for me, exam results do not define you as a person and they certainly do not define the rest of your life.

When I recruit I always go on gut instinct and ask myself the following questions:

Do I like them? Could I work with them?  Will they fit into the company culture ?

Are they IT  confident?

Have their done anything interesting which shows me a sense of character?

Are they a grafter and had any part time jobs?

Do they have a good attitude and an eagerness to learn?

I rarely sit there and wonder how many qualifications they have. Obviously, I need to know that they have good basic English skills and in a business  where we talk a lot, they need to be confident, to be able to use the phone and the rest they can learn.

Claire shot to fame when she appeared in series 4 of the BBC's 'The Apprentice', she became known for her no-nonsense approach to business

Aside from exam results let’s consider the 10 things that require zero talent:

Being on time

Work ethic


Body language




Willingness to learn

Doing extra

Being prepared

I’d rather employ someone who has these skills in abundance versus a sheet of qualifications, but no get up and go.

Good luck to all young people collecting their results this month. Have belief in your ability, confidence in yourself, be ambitious in what you can achieve and go for it. The future is yours!

For further information or to book Claire Young , please call us at Speakers Corner on +44 (0)20 7607 7070 or email

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