After months of preparation and lots of anxious moments, there was joy, as well as relief at the end of what has typically been one of the most stressful days for Barbadian parents – if not for students – as 3,000 pupils completed the Barbados Secondary Schools’ Entrance Examination — commonly referred to as either the Common Entrance Examination or the 11-plus.
Some 1,680 males and 1,650 females, including 11 early sitters – four males and seven females who were granted permission to write the exam at age ten – were registered to sit the examination at 22 secondary schools across the island.
The day began early as most parents and guardians took the students to the examination centres with plenty of time to relax and settle down, although a few rushed in at the last moment.
And if there were any nerves, those at Princess Margaret Secondary School in St Philip displayed no signs as they got last minute hugs and well wishes from their parents before heading into the exam room.
“I have put in a lot of work to do this examination. I have been preparing for it,” said a confident-looking Anmar Crichlow of Hilda Skeene Primary.
An equally confident Jasmine Phillips told Barbados TODAY she had cut out all distractions, including electronics, in preparation for the big day.
Over in the north, there was a mixture of bright smiles, a bit of nerves and confidence as students readied themselves for the test. There were also a few late arrivals, as some were seen hustling in at the very last minute.
At Frederick Smith, students from Welches Primary, Good Shepherd and St James Primary gathered from as early as 7:45 a.m. eagerly waiting to enter the examination room.
Parents gave hugs, kisses and last minute advice and teachers prayed with them as they sought to comfort them, even though they themselves appeared to be nervous.’
A few students told Barbados TODAY they were ready for the exam and could not wait until it was over.
As students were called into the exam rooms, parents waved goodbye and promptly left the school compound.
Over at The Alexandra School, where students from Roland Edwards and Gordon Greenidge Primary gathered to sit their exam, parents lingered around a little longer, waiting in the school car park for their charges.
At Coleridge & Parry, the students from Boscobel, All Saints Primary and Leacock’s Private School had begun their exam, starting with the Composition, at 9 a.m. sharp and appeared to be settled.
The parents brought along picnic chairs and blankets and set up camp quietly outside the school’s gate as they awaited the students’ verdict.
It would be 1: 00 p.m. before the students rushed out, many still brimming with the same level of confidence they had displayed when they walked into the room.
Students from Christ Church Girls, St Christopher and Milton Lynch Primary, who sat the exam at Christ Church Foundation, emerged smiling and ran into the arms of waiting parents.
Describing the test as fair to easy, they told Barbados TODAY that aside from a few nerves at the start, they were able to execute the training reinforced by both teachers and parents in preparation for the test.
“The exam was good; I was a little nervous at first but my mum and dad told me to just relax and everything will come back to me. So that was what I did and I didn’t have any problems,” said Deshawn Mayers of St Christopher School.
His father Carlisle Parris said he was glad it was finally over, and that his son felt confident.
“It is a lot of pressure on the parents and teachers because we have to make sure that their head is in right place and that they remain focused right through, but I am happy that he came out smiling and I hope he gets to go to Foundation School because that is the school he wants to [attend],” Parris said.
Despite a request from the Ministry of Education for parents not to congregate at the school gate after dropping off their charges, the suspense got the better of many, as they stayed put until it was all over.
“I feel I was more nervous than my daughter was because I know she worked really hard and I know she will do her best, but you can’t help worrying . . . that something could go wrong and throw her off her game. So I was really relieved to hear that everything went well inside there,” one parent, Shanda Harris, said.
Over at The St Michael School, there was elation from students from St Ambrose, St Patrick, People’s Cathedral, George Lamming Primary and St Cyprian’s Boys School, who told Barbados TODAY the exam was a lot easier than they had anticipated.
Zishan Motara said during the preparatory stages he had struggled somewhat, but he was satisfied with his performance, especially with the Composition paper.
“It was a decent paper. I was expecting it to be a little harder. But it was still a little challenging,” said the squash player, who wants to attend The St Michael School.
Like some of the other boys, Joshua Miller and Head Boy Khaleb Gaskin described the exam as “decent”, adding that now it was over he felt “free”.
“It wouldn’t have been possible if my principal did not help me with the preparation,” said Miller, whose eyes are on Combermere School.
With the exam over, the students said they were looking forward to “relaxing, having more fun, focusing on sports or travelling”.
Principal of St Cyprian’s Dave Layne said the students had spent a lot of time rehearsing.
“It is a lot of practice and we exhausted ourselves in ensuring that we cover the entire syllabus so that the boys would not meet anything they have not seen before. So it was a lot of work.”
Some students of the People’s Cathedral Primary School also told Barbados TODAY the exam was easier than expected, although some aspects were a little troublesome.
Azara Austin and her mother Susan said they had put a lot of time into preparation, and they could now relax.
“I was working almost every day, I didn’t get any vacation time. We were just working and preparing for the exam,” said Austin, who wishes to attend Queens College.
“I was feeling a little anxious, but now I am happy it is over. I will get some time back for myself now too,” added Susan.
Makayla Ramsay and her friends Alissa Walsh and Rachel Sobers all agreed that the Mathematics paper was the most challenging, while the Composition and English papers were “easy”.
“It was a little bit easier than my expectations. The thing was, I thought that the Maths would be a higher level and it would be really hard, but it was actually easy. They were trying to trick me but it didn’t work out,” said Walsh, an aspiring lawyer or actor.
The sentiments were similar at Coleridge & Parry School, where relieved students bolted through the gates, pleased that it was all over.
“The exam was alright. The Maths was a bit challenging, but I think I got through okay. I’m just glad it’s over now and I’m looking forward to relaxing,” Malaika Jordan, a student of Boscobel Primary School, said with a giggle.
“It was really easy. I’m shocked I got through so well. Now I can relax around for a while,” added Head Boy Kyle Jordan, who hopes to attend Combermere.
Thierry Edwards, son of former Barbados and West Indies fast bowler Fidel Edwards, felt the Mathematics paper was challenging, while he was unsure about Composition, “but the English was good”.
Having seemingly conquered the most challenging school days in their primary school lives, it was time for some fun and frolic, as well as stress relief.
At Chefette Speightstown many ran around in the playground and made merry, something they had not done in a long time,
“All the hard work is now done and I did my best. The exam was alright for me,” said Nijayda Greaves of Selah Primary School, who just wanted to have some fun and relax.
At Lucky Horseshoe, students from St Gabriel’s, Charles F Broome, Seventh Day Adventist and Lawrence T Gay Memorial enjoyed their after party and feasted on many treats as they discussed plans now the exam was over.
Over at the Hilton Barbados Resort, students from George Lamming enjoyed some fun in the sun and simply eased the stress in the pool.
Meanwhile, Chief Education Officer Karen Best said everything came off “without a hitch”, with “no complaints or concerns from anyone throughout the day”.
“It was all smooth sailing today. From what we saw going around to the centres it was smooth operations and we didn’t have any reports of children falling ill, and I am very pleased with the outcome of the exam,” Best told Barbados TODAY.