When I did year 12 at high school – a 200 student country high school with not very many year 12 subject choices back in 1983 – one of the subjects I did was English. I could choose between English or Physics and physics definitely isn’t my strong point so English it was.
In my midyear exams I really bombed out with a ‘D’ in English, if memory serves. I was disgusted with my crap mark and the thought of end of year exams filled me with dread. Failing yera 12 was not an option I wanted to consider even though I had no idea that if I went to university what I would study. In fact I had no idea what I would do at all as the world wide web wasn’t around then and that’s my area of work now. Our high school only got computers after I left and they wouldn’t have been on the internet for some years to come.
When I finished year 12 I had an idea that I might do social work. That idea to me now is quite laughable as I’m sure I would not be a very good social worker. We had no career counsellors then and all I really remember doing to prepare me for my life beyond high school was a visit to a couple of universities to have a look at their degree options. Nothing stood out at all but it was a trip away from my country town.
Back to my ‘D’ for English. I put my head down and my bum up and practised and practised writing essays. I got my English teacher to give me essay questions and I would do an introduction to them so I got the gist of what was required in an essay which was a large part of the exam. She would have a look and give me feedback and I’d take some more home the next weekend. I obviously didn’t have a life.
I think subjecting students to an end of year exam which can make or break your entrance into university is torture. I can only presume that when I hear of year 12’s now getting perfect or almost perfect scores that the majority of them do science subjects where there are right and wrong answers. I can’t imagine, unless someone’s absolutely brilliant at things that require your own interpretation like English and history and art, that students can get perfect scores in these subject areas. And these were the types of subjects I did in year 12.
All my hard work paid off and I got a reasonably good mark for my year 12 English. In fact the rumour was that I wouldn’t pass year 12 but I did. Some fellow students that I thought would pass, didn’t.
I ended up working and travelling for about ten years before I entered university and my year 12 marks were good enough that I didn’t need to sit a test to gain entry. And now, the irony is, I’m a professional writer/editor.