Your PSLE score does not define you

By Lyn Lee

Don’t let your PSLE score define you, because it doesn’t.

It should not even be taken as a measure of your intelligence. Or a proxy for what you can achieve in life. Even Mensa scores are not a measure of all-round intelligence and potential to achieve excellence in life (what that is exactly is another topic for another day).

See the PSLE score for what it is. The metric of a broad-based system of allocating kids to schools, that is almost as fair as a national system can get. Approach the PSLE for what it is. A standardized test for admission into secondary school. The US has its SATs, GREs, GMATs as admission tests and I don’t think the vast majority of students get into a tizzy over it, much less their parents.

Not doing well in the PSLE does not mean you are doomed (or disgraced) forever. It matters, in that it decides what school you go to for the next 4-6 years. But high school does not a whole life make.

It could influence your path but it would be defeatist and foolhardy to say that it determines your path totally.

Work hard, try your best, and if you do well, great. You’re good at the PSLE exam. Celebrate that. But that’s about it, really.

Don’t count on definitely being the top 5% of earners when you start work, or even 10 years into your career (a fairer gauge of success, if you ask me, as the world sees success at least).

The person who topped PSLE in my year wasn’t one of the top in O levels or A levels. In fact she has a similar career to one who got 50 PSLE points less. True story.

There are many with good PSLE results who fizzle out for some reason or another. The PSLE favours early bloomers but as we know life is a marathon not a sprint.

If you do badly, or simply worse than expected (which in many case doesn’t qualify as ‘badly’ in the absolute sense at all), then don’t despair. It’s not the end all. In fact, take it as a setback that you can grow from, and become better because of. Others who do not have this ‘life training’ will be less hardy when they receive hard knocks. And no one, no matter how rich or sheltered, can forever be immune to knocks in life.

There are folks with PSLE scores of 230+ who have wildly successful careers now, as private sector bosses, lawyers, public sector managers and entrepreneurs. There are ITE folks who make it big in the F&B industry or as SME bosses. The PSLE happens too early in life to predict or determine how you’ll end up down the road.

It is wallowing in self-pity that will cause your eventual downfall. Not the PSLE score per se.

I look forward to the day when most parents can be almost blasé about the PSLE, and the PSLE score.

A return to the days of my childhood, when it was less of a topic, of an issue to be discussed or worried about. Of a score to almost asphyxiate whilst waiting for. Parents might have been anxious, but it was certainly not a norm to take leave in the weeks preceding the PSLE itself.

It’s an exam result. And there will be anxieties that accompany all exam results. It determines quite a bit, but the final extent of how much it controls your life can only be decided by how much you let it.

I am not knocking the PSLE score because I did badly myself or am a sour grape about those who did well. Quite the contrary. my PSLE score was quite pleasant (hah). But it scares me how much anxiety that borders on nervous breakdown is experienced (first) by parents, and then (possibly imposed upon) their kids.

When it comes to my turn as a PSLE parent (sigh that the term actually exists), I hope to have a clear enough mind, and focus on the things that matter ultimately, to eschew the nail-chewing. It might be easy to say now because I’m some way away from it. So wish me luck.

This post was first published over at the Lil Blue Bottle blog on 23 November 2014. It is reproduced with permission.


Not getting into a local university is not the end of the world

A Singaporean kid's thoughts and troubles

Poor PSLE grades: Boys need to fall in order to climb higher mountains.