The new GCSEs are the hardest they have been since O-Levels. Teenagers are suffering from more stress that even before, battling debilitating mental setbacks as they face exams designed only to highlight the dichotomy between those academically able and those less so. Even those that are able to heap crippling expectations on themselves fearing the only alternative is failure. The education system has always had its flaws, but the new GCSE exam have identified and magnified them so far it is painfully easy to see how ineffective they are.

GCSEs are meant to be an academically stimulating challenge that is approachable by everyone in the country. Instead, the new “gold-standard” exams have failed to recognise the needs of students and make a comprehensive, accessible examination and are nothing more than “a dark torturous cloud of tears and stress that is always there” as my friend Yashika Wahi, 14, would put it.

Instead of motivating students to achieve their full potential, the new GCSEs are doing just the opposite. The expectation to memorise pages and pages of information brings a sense of futility into the work and the unbelievable pressure of displaying the accumulation of two years worth of work in a meagre high-stakes two hours is a monstrously intimidating demand. The pointlessness of closed book English literature exams demands students to memorise hundreds of phrases in Shakespearean English, out of which a small fraction will actually be used in the exam. The work students put in for this qualification over years goes unnoticed and unappreciated by the ruthlessly unforgiving examination.

“They just make me so stressed and tired all the time, and I barely have any time to do what I want. And I keep wondering what it’s all even for,” remarked my friend, Kriti Khanna, 15 speaking about how the exams take a toll on teenagers’ mental health.

The unbelievable amount of stress put on teenagers at an age where it is completely unnecessary is ludicrous. Finland, enjoying their status as having the best education system in the world gives little to no homework, reports some of the lowest stress levels for young people in the world, all abilities are taught together and hobbies and interests are prioritised over tests. This is the example we should be following to place ourselves on the global stage for educational innovation and excellence, and instead of working toward this highly effective standard, the GCSEs have devolved into the practices of the past, making this goal further away than ever.