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Why do speech and drama exams? A student’s perspective (Part 1)

Updated: Jun 6, 2023

Speech and drama exam season is approaching again!

At Head Held High, exam season is one of our favourite times of the year. It’s the time when many of our students (last year 300+ of our 850 students took speech and drama exams) get to showcase all that they’ve learned throughout the year. And after they’ve done so, it’s a chance to bask in the feeling of achievement and accomplishment that only a well-taken exam can provide.

This is Part 1 of a couple of interviews we held with two of our recent students, who have both been through the entire speech and drama exam lifecycle, from junior to senior grades. To read the second interview, click here.

In this blog post we interview Guy Williams, a former Head Held High student who over the years completed the full range of speech and drama exams. He’s therefore perfectly placed to comment on what he’s observed speech and drama exams can do for young people.

Read on to hear Guy’s thoughts on the top benefits (and challenges) of speech and drama exams. We hope you find the interview helpful in deciding whether speech and drama exams might be for your child Guy, how old were you when you started speech and drama exams, and how old when you finished? I started speech and drama exams when I was 9 and finished them when I was 18 (in year 13). What is the highest speech and drama exam qualification you obtained? I did up to Grade 8 speech and drama exams, before switching over examination styles to do my ATCL Diploma in Communications! How old are you now and what are you up to? I’m currently 18, and am a first year student studying economics at the University of Melbourne! While no longer taking speech and drama lessons, I still manage to involve myself in the performing arts, whether through supporting local theatre through attending, or doing things like working backstage on the college musical. What would you say are the biggest benefits you gained from the speech and drama exam process that you are now applying to your study/work life? The most noticeable benefit that I observed through the exam process was the ability to pick up and be comfortable with new study material quickly, due to the sheer number of different pieces you encounter across your exam journey. Being able to work through a piece in a new or challenging style, alongside your teacher and classmates forced me to become much more comfortable with unfamiliar situations. Academically, I saw this translate into having the ability to grasp new content easier than my classmates, and be able to move forward with these concepts more immediately. This confidence really helped me, even in other activities such as debating, expressing myself even when I wasn’t 100% sure of the situation or what was going on – and that has been so impactful personally. What would you say are the biggest benefits you gained from the speech and drama exam process, that you are now applying to your personal life? In my personal life, I have found speech and drama really helpful in aiding me see things from the perspectives of others. Being able to understand the motivations, interests, and thought processes of those different from us is essential in all character work, so working on this skill in a speech and drama context allowed me to transfer this understanding to situations in the real world too. For example, I learned to be able to give much better advice to my friends when they found themselves in difficult situations, because my speech and drama experience allowed me to put myself in their shoes. What were the most enjoyable parts of doing speech and drama exams over the years? As cliché as it sounds, I’ll always remember the connections with my teachers and classmates over the years! The feeling of, every week, working together with a group of people towards a common goal, as challenging as it initially seemed, really brought us together, and was so much fun. I know I wouldn’t have been able to go through the exam process without all of that support, and I’m so grateful for everyone who’s helped my journey over the years What were the most challenging parts of doing speech and drama exams over the years? Honestly, I found the memorising of the different pieces really challenging. Nevertheless, once I dedicated the time to getting this done, and developing certain strategies that I found worked for me (my parents got so sick of me pacing around the house repeating lines!) this was so much more manageable Would you recommend to young students beginning their speech and drama journeys to do exams? If so, why? I would! While it may seem really stressful at the time (and it can be!), it’s such a rewarding experience – both in terms of the feedback you get from the incredible examiners, and the feeling that you are working towards something every time you practice. Every exam after the first one gets a little easier, so I’d really encourage anyone to give it a go the first year, and see how they find it! How do you imagine you might use what you’ve learned from years of speech and drama exams in your future? Going forward, I think I will be able to use my ability to express myself confidently and clearly which I really attribute to my speech and drama exam experience. In all areas of life, whether personal or more professional / academic, being able to convey what you think to others is such an integral skill that I really value.

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