in ,

You didn’t fail, standardised testing failed you

Today marked a pretty nerve racking day for a lot of year 12 students. It’s the day they’ve been working towards for their entire careers, and the day they are most likely feeling the literal weight on their shoulders. I wanted to take the time to repost an article I wrote earlier in the year in regards to the ATAR score. There are a million ways to make money in this world, be successful in this world (they don’t often mean the same thing) and literally the day you get your ATAR is the day it stops meaning anything. For those who did well, a huge congratulations from me to you (and I really do mean that!), for those who didn’t, in light of the words sung by the ever charismatic words of Ruby Fields… You will be more than your parent’s opinions and your ATAR. That I can guarantee. You did not fail, standardised testing failed you. And to all my fellow creatives out there, you do you!

To those finishing school, (or parents of school aged people), and Uni students alike, reading this piece, I offer up my thoughts on the matter, and some advice I wish I’d received a lot earlier.

Your score on a standardised test does not determine your intelligence.

Yep, you heard it here first folks. A series of exams designed to test, not your knowledge, but your memory of the curriculum, does not determine your intelligence. Given enough time, the right revising tools, and the motivation, anyone would be able to class themselves successful in the HSC. But what did you actually learn? Most of my HSC learning experience was centred around completing an English major work, something I actually enjoyed, and took a lot of pride in. I fell in love with words because I had a mentor who shared my passion for them. I did well in the HSC, but I can barely do seventh grade maths nowadays and couldn’t tell you a thing related to biology that doesn’t involve making a cake look like a plant cell. Intelligence is extremely subjective, individual, and should be treated as such. 

In your late teens, and early 20s the should’s, will always win.

I remember getting to year 10, when my careers counsellor sat me down and asked me, “what are you going to do at Uni?”. This pretty much comes close to the last thing I needed to hear. What I wish they’d asked? “What are you passionate about?”, “What subjects are you doing well in?”, “What would you like to do when you finish school?” and most importantly, “There are more options then you think”. To the people who drop out of Uni after a semester (like I did the first time in 2009), regardless of what your transcript says, you did not fail. Take the time to consider that formalised education just isn’t for you right now, if not ever, and there are a million and one ways to get from A to B. (The exception to this is of course, are careers that legally require a University degree due to the nature of the profession. Doctors for example. Please stay at Uni).

There comes a time where those around us stop asking us what we want to do when we grow up, and start asking us how on earth we think we’re going to get there. From a really young age, we’re taught that we should go to uni, instead of taking the time to figure out what we want to do. My sister for example wanted to be a Fairy Godmother until she was at least 11, and instead of practicing her spells on me or anyone else that happened to walk by, she was asking my Mum what Uni course she could do to become one – fact. 

Error, group does not exist! Check your syntax! (ID: 18)

The day you receive your ATAR is the day it stops holding any weight.

If one more 19 year old tells me what their ATAR score was, without me asking, or even being involved in a conversation even remotely close to the subject, I swear I’ll scream. I do not care. And neither should you. Yes you worked hard for that 95.98, or whatever score it was, but surely it is not the most interesting thing about you. And surely it will not be your greatest success. If you think it will be, check yourself before you wreck yourself. Following from this…

Your ATAR should not determine the course you study.

If you were a top student in High School, and received a really good mark in the HSC, you will feel the pressure of “doing something worthwhile” with your mark. Bullshit. If you score a 98 and want to study a Bachelor of Arts majoring in underwater basket weaving, you do that. If that’s what you’re passionate about, do it! The main reason people drop out of Uni is because they are in the wrong course! The kid who got 98 and was told to study Law and Commerce but hates maths and public speaking is going to drop out. The person who hates people and gets queasy at the sign of blood is going to quit medicine. Life is more than the money you make, and the career or profession you choose. “Happiness, the brand, is not happiness”.

So there’s my two cents, on the deeper issue behind why students choose to drop out of University, particularly after their first ever semester. I couldn’t care less about your ATAR. And neither should you. Actively choose to pursue something you’re passionate about, get excited about studying for the sake of learning, and success – whatever that looks like, will follow.


Written by Laura Kebby

I write words about talented people doing talented things, and translate chatter by putting pen to paper.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.