Episode 16

Jamie's taken his exam and is waiting for the results. Adam and Jo talk about the meaning of different exam results in the UK.



Hello and welcome to Episode 16 of Series 4 of LearnEnglish Elementary Podcasts. My name is Adam and my colleague Jo will be joining us later to talk about some of the language from the podcast.

Last time we heard Tess and Ravi talking about Sherlock Holmes, a famous British detective. Or perhaps I should say a famous British fictional detective. As Ravi explained, Sherlock Holmes wasn't a real person – he was actually a character in stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Zafarbek from Uzbekistan wrote in to say thank you for the information! Zafarbek loves Sherlock Holmes films but didn't know that Sherlock Holmes wasn't a real detective. Don’t worry, Zafarbek, even when Doyle was writing the original stories 120 years ago, people thought he was real then.

Abdulazim Saffaf from Syria says 'I thought he was a real person until I listened to this podcast!' Abdulazim also said that he's just bought a hat like Sherlock's hat and so all his friends call him Sherlock Holmes. You don't see many hats like that these days, Abdulazim – and it's called a 'deerstalker' by the way, because people used to wear them when they were hunting deer.

Ypf1083 is new to the website – welcome! – and says 'I've read most of the books about Sherlock Holmes and I love them. He's one of my favorite characters'. Me, too. And britishlearner from Guinea remembers hearing about Sherlock Holmes for the first time in one of the jokes from the first series of the podcast (Series 1 Episode 2 actually, britishlearner – you've got a good memory!) and also in an episode of Word on the Street, when Ashley tried to solve a crime.

Zara Zieno from Syria isn't very keen on Sherlock Holmes. She once tried to watch it with her brother but had to stop because it was very frightening. But Zara really likes a series called Detective Conan, and a lot of you wrote in to say the same thing – Detective Conan is obviously very popular, even though I've never heard of him!

So thank you to Wuri Koes and Arum Adriani, both from Indonesia, for writing in and explaining a bit about it. As Wuri Koes explains, Detective Conan is a Japanese manga series. It's about a clever student who helps the police solve crimes. His enemies give him a poison that turns him into a child, but he carries on solving crimes secretly and calls himself Conan after Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who wrote the Sherlock Holmes books. And, as Arum Adriana says, there are some similarities between Sherlock Holmes and Detective Conan and the way they solve their cases, perhaps because the writer, Gosho Aoyama, is a big Holmes fan.

Speaking of other fictional detectives, Laura 1240 from Italy said 'Ever since I was a child I've always loved Agatha Christie and her private Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, but I like Miss Marple very much too. I've read almost all her books, and watched all the movies and TV series based on her characters and I really, really love them all!'

Great comments everyone – please keep writing them. And don't forget about the Elementary Podcast app. Follow the link from the LearnEnglish website or go to the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store to get it.

And now it's time to catch up with Carolina and her friends. It's coming to the end of the academic year, everyone's busy with exams – and some people have some important decisions to make about their future. Let's see what's happening ...


Carolina – After the exam

Fellow student: Phew. That was difficult.

Carolina: Yes, it was. Did you do question four? The one about South America?

Fellow student: The one about the Atlantic coast? God no. That was really complicated. Why? Did you?

Carolina: Yes. I thought it was quite easy. Oh dear.

Fellow student: Coming for lunch?

Carolina: Yes, um, oh, um, just a minute, I've got a voice message.

Jamie: Hi. It's me. I need to speak to you. It's really important. I'm in an exam until one. Meet me outside the lecture block after that.

Carolina: Oh. Well, no, I can't come for lunch, Sally. Sorry. I've got to meet someone.

Fellow student: OK. See you tomorrow.

Carolina: Yeah, bye …


Carolina: So, Jamie? What is it?

Jamie: Wait a minute. Let's find somewhere to sit down.

Carolina: Can't you tell me now? Is it something terrible?

Jamie: Do you want to go somewhere for lunch?

Carolina: No. Let's sit down here. Now. On the grass.

Jamie: Phew. It's really hot. I told you British weather isn't always terrible.

Carolina: Jamie! I know you British talk about the weather all the time – but not now! Why did you want to see me? Tell me now.

Jamie: Well … You remember I told you about that placement that I applied for?

Carolina: Placement? What's that?

Jamie: Like a training position – work experience.

Carolina: You applied for a lot of different things.

Jamie: Yeah. Yeah, that's right.

Carolina: And?

Jamie: Well, they've accepted me.

Carolina: Which one? Where?

Jamie: The one I really wanted. The best one.

Carolina: Oh no. Borneo.

Jamie: Yep. Borneo. The orang-utans.

Carolina: You've got the job.

Jamie: Well, I haven't got it yet. I have to wait for my exam results. They say I have to get a 2:1.

Carolina: You'll get a 2:1. You know you will.

Jamie: I hope so. I've got a 2:1 in my continuous assessment. And the exams are going well.

Carolina: So that's good then.

Jamie: It's great … but you know there's a problem.

Carolina: Yes.

Jamie: The band.

Carolina: The band!?

Jamie: The tour in October with The Electrons. I don't know what to do. It's a terrible decision. Stay here and go on tour with the band – that's every guy's dream. Or go to Borneo and work with orang-utans – my dream since I was a kid. I can't do both.

Carolina: And what about me? Do you think I want you to go to Borneo, the other side of the world?

Jamie: It's only for nine months. We can email, we can phone, we can text. Look, I need time to think about this. It's the biggest decision of my life. And I need you to understand that. Please. OK?

Carolina: Oh, Jamie. OK.

Jamie: Thanks. Now come on, let's get some lunch.


Jo and Adam

Adam: And here's Jo again in the studio. Hi Jo.

Jo: Hi everybody. It's getting exciting, isn't it? Jamie's got the job ...

Adam: But will he go to Borneo?

Jo: Or stay with the band and tour with The Electrons? I think I'd go on tour with the band.

Adam: I think I'd go to Borneo. I visited once and it was amazing. But we need to wait for his exam results.

Jo: Ah, yes. And that's what I want to talk about today. Listen to Jamie and Carolina.

Jamie: Well, I haven't got it yet. I have to wait for my exam results. They say I have to get a 2:1.

Carolina: You'll get a 2:1. You know you will.

Jamie: I hope so. I've got a 2:1 in my continuous assessment. And the exams are going well.

Jo: A 2:1 is a grade. When you get your final degree, you can get a first class degree, which is a very good degree. Like a grade A.

Adam: People say 'I'd like to get a first', or 'My brother got a first at Oxford'.

Jo: And then there's a second class degree. Second class degrees are divided into two levels – you can get a 2:1, which is a good degree, like a grade B.

Adam: Or a 2:2, which isn't as good as a 2:1 – more like a grade C.

Jo: And then there's a third class degree, which isn't so good – more like a grade D.

Adam: So, when you finish university and get your final degree, you can get a first, a 2:1, a 2:2 or a third.

Jo: And Jamie needs to get a 2:1 for the job in Borneo. Listen again to Jamie.

Jamie: I've got a 2:1 in my continuous assessment. And the exams are going well.

Jo: On Jamie's course, students are assessed by a combination of coursework – 'continuous assessment' – and exams, but every university has a different system.

Adam: I used to like exams because I didn’t have to work as hard through the year to pass the course. I could just study hard for a short time before the exam. What about you?

Jo: I preferred continuous assessment. I used to get very stressed for exams.

Adam: We'd like you to write and tell us what you think about exams and continuous assessment.

Jo: Which system do you prefer? Which do you think is better?

Adam: The address is www.britishcouncil.org/learnenglish. And that's all for today. There are some exercises on the website to help you with the language from the podcast.

Jo: Including some more vocabulary connected with study and university.

Jo/Adam: Bye!

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Submitted by jmajo on Thu, 25/03/2021 - 15:20

The best way to evaluate the knowledge for me is the continuous assessment, because it allows students improve more quickly and detect the early errors and mistakes in the process of learning rather than the exams where students can forget some of the knowledge along the courses and when they get there and have to take the exams they're really stressed and nervous. Actually the continuous assessment is more like the real life work when you must test your knowledge and learn new things a little bit every day and not only once every 6 o 8 months like exams. Thanks for the episode. Great site!!

Submitted by February on Wed, 24/02/2021 - 05:48

I prefer continuous assessment. It's because we easily feel pressured if we are assessed only by exams. By continuous assessment, on the other hand, we try to study throughout the year not only during the final period. When I was back in school, we had both, but final exams weighed way more than continuous assessment, like 30 percent to 70 percent.

Submitted by danisep on Sat, 31/10/2020 - 03:16

Well, If I’m not wrong here we called them different and when I was a student at university we used to take both, I think that continuous assessments could be attached also with an exam at the end of term. but also it is real as a read in a comment that some professors spend a lot of time teaching unnecessary things, for instance I studied business administration and there is load of garbage that I had to learn like when was created administration theories, which are completely unnecessary in real life, could be more useful spending those time in practice issues.

Submitted by Marey Saad on Mon, 12/10/2020 - 06:38

I'd prefer exams to continuous assessment because I like to work hard for a short while like Adam, and there is another advantage of exam over continuous assessment is that the students may face bad circumstances during the year while in the exams you have a short period of time two weeks or less where you give it all your concentration and that's it. Sorry for making mistakes Thanks

Submitted by SamerTJ on Sat, 20/06/2020 - 06:11

Actually I don't care about exams and as an engineer with a master degree who have done more than 14 finals, I will say that exams in universities and schools are time-consuming and have no valuable effect on students. I believe that exams are a very important way to test your knowledge but this can't be done by rewriting what you have learnt. The real exam is in the real world where a lot of problems will face you and you have to use your knowledge to solve these problems, and that could be done with projects, assignments and researches. Assume that I am studying English, the exam should be making a real conversation between students instead of doing writing exams. For more illustration, suppose you know a formula, it won't be useful if you don't know how to use it, and furthermore there is no meaning of memorizing the formula if it is possible to get it by a simple google search. In some sciences like history, you can do research instead of doing writing exams. In my opinion, the most important thing is to be able to use what knowledge you have in the real world. Finally, I just want to say that writing exams are nothing but an awful way to suppress ambitious students in addition to damage more trees and paper.

Submitted by Sergey Sh on Thu, 17/10/2019 - 02:25

I had to go through both ways being a student at the university and must confess that I more prefer continuous assessment rather than preparing for the exams. When you do your coursework it gets you be up on your ears in field of your study, your subject. You have to work in the library with books that means reading a lot and write expressing yourself making your own research in topic. There’s always a chance to talk to the teacher to find out what’s wrong and how to make progress. Exams are as well as Jo thinks seemed to be stressful for me as well. But this case there’s no necessary to work hard through the whole course. You can prepare for them for no so long time.

Submitted by User_User on Tue, 10/09/2019 - 18:33

Hello Do I like to learn throughout the year or only for exams? It depends. Some subjects like history and biology don't require that you remember what you previously learned. If you have completed one topic and start a new topic then you usually don't need the previous content. I would only learn then the subject throughout the year if I think I need this information for my life because it is important. Other subjects like math and languages require that you know what you have previous learned. For example if you can't remember the English tenses well then you have problems when the topic is indirect speech because you need to understand the tenses when you want to formulate these kind of sentences. Bye

Submitted by parisaach on Sun, 16/06/2019 - 10:50

Actually I don't enjoy of taking exams, but almost no one (at least the people who studied) can avoid it in their lives. taking exams is not a 100% good or 100% bad , it has pros and cons. Lets talk about the pros because even if some teachers do not like to give final exams they still can't avoid of giving exams completely.They need a way to know students better. advantages of taking exams are: It is a good way to assessing students knowledge, ability or finding out how much they studied and learned during a smester. besides It is the easiest way to classifying the students and finally it is a standard and fair way to assessing students. On the other hand teachers can remove final exam and assessing students during the semester this is a perfect way to make students to study everyday. When I was at university I had a professor who was so serious . She made us to study one or two article and a chapter of a book every session and we talked about the things we studied at the class. So in the end of semester we all learned many things and we all know about the course. this sounds great. By the way i think It's up to the teachers and the grade and age of student to choose the way of assessing them. They can give an exam at the end of the term and they also should keep doing continuious homeworks and school activities and the final mark be inculded both of them

Submitted by ali aiad ali shanan on Sun, 06/01/2019 - 13:52

I prefer continuous assessment. I think this a better

Submitted by cuneyt on Tue, 11/12/2018 - 09:15

Hİ guys, Absolutely I prefer continuous assessment. Because it is stressless. You can focus just understanding when you feel relax. You don't worry. Our country education system is very complicated. I must had been passing the exam İf I Want to study at unıversity. Just think. You study until finish hıgh school after. You take an exam three hour marathon . İf you succed a exam, you can enter what you want a departmant but your poınt have to enough for department. this is very terrible. İt is enaough contıous assessment. Take care of yourself.

Submitted by Fatemehh on Fri, 31/08/2018 - 22:18

I prefer continuous assessments. I can't focus and study well for a short time and I get too much stressed, also I think anything can happen before an exam which can prevent good performance on it and destroy lots of endeavors in an hour or so.

Submitted by natiolicosta on Tue, 19/06/2018 - 01:21

I prefer continuous assessment. I think this way of evaluating smarter.

Submitted by ANITA CRUZ on Tue, 05/06/2018 - 02:53

I agree with Jo, I prefer continuous assesstments since they will let me know how my preparations goes.... I would prefer voicing and pronuntiation assess', too

Submitted by Hal55 on Tue, 22/05/2018 - 00:06

I agree with Jo. I would prefer to take continuous assessment if I am a student. because I think continuous assessment is just good idea for education and I haven't heard about it in my country. I always felt so much stress just before exams every time. and when I finished the exam, I never remember anything about the exams at all. so Does it make sense?

Submitted by Andrew international on Fri, 09/02/2018 - 12:36

Dear Sir Thank you for explaning the prepositions 'to' and 'for' Would you please tell me why we use 'for' in these sentences but not 'to' I have notice this in sentences using part of 'be.' Is that the reason? For eg. She was late for school. Is this the train for London? But not to school/ not to London This is also a destination/or some other reason like part of be as mentioned above.. Please let me know. Thank you Regards

Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 10/02/2018 - 07:39

In reply to by Andrew international


Hello Andrew international,

The adjective 'late' usually collocates with the preposition 'for' rather than 'to':

late for the meal

late for the meeting

late for the wedding

There are some examples of 'late to' but these tend to be fixed expressions with idiomatic meanings such as 'late to the party'.


You can say either 'the train for London' or 'the train to London'. The meaning is the same.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Andrew international on Fri, 09/02/2018 - 07:46

Dear Sir I have the difficulty to understand the prepositions 'to' and 'for' the writer has used in the following two sentences. Would you please explain any rule or reason for this.? She is leaving for France tomorrow. They flew to Canada. Thank you. Regards

Submitted by Kirk on Fri, 09/02/2018 - 11:58

In reply to by Andrew international


Hello Andrew international,

One of the many meanings of 'to' is to indicate a destination. It is used with many verbs of movement, including 'fly'. 'for' can also be used to indicate a destination, though it's used with a smaller range of words. One of these is 'leave', so this sentence means she is going to France.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by alberto bastos on Wed, 07/02/2018 - 18:48

Hello! I prefer continuous assesment. That is a process all the time seeing the student in your make and developed. so anything is wrong exist the opportunity making better in this exactly moment. Sorry for all because my Englis is not good. I hope that understand me. Thanks.

Submitted by Tomoaki Hachiya on Wed, 08/11/2017 - 20:30

Taking an exam doesn't matter at all for me because I'm old enough (58). My interest is on Conan! I am a Japanese and yet I didn't know the cartoon Conan comes from Conan Doyle of Sherlock Holmes! What a shame! Thank you for telling me that information. But the cartoon Conan is for children and too childish for me to watch, I'm afraid...

Submitted by Mariam33 on Sun, 02/07/2017 - 14:59

continuous assessment is used to decide whether or not children have attained their reading targets,i think this is the best way to find out your level .

Submitted by etamar on Fri, 16/06/2017 - 23:11

I am prefer a continuous assessment than exam on exam its not going very well for me even if i have the knowledge to take the test, and does not show my real knowledge on the specific area. i mean i do prefer grade for all what i have done on the year.

Submitted by etamar on Fri, 16/06/2017 - 10:32

hey i have got it now , does not matter

Submitted by etamar on Fri, 16/06/2017 - 10:24

what is the meaning of assessment on the film ? thanks.