Measuring Success


Today was an exciting day for Year 12 VCE students across the State, who, after a year of hard-work received their ATAR scores.

An ATAR is derived from study scores achieved in subjects, results from school-based assessment tasks and an end of year exam. From these results, VCAA inputs this data into their magic calculator and it pops out a percentage, which allows students to enter university courses, based on the final score they achieve. Each year a small number of students across the state achieve incredibly high ATAR scores, eg: 95.00% and above. I have no idea how they achieve such success! While these very hard-working and very deserving students are often publicized in the media, not all students feel satisfied with the results they receive.

While I admire students who achieve freakishly good scores, I also feel for the students who may be disappointed with their final scores. It is on this day each year that I always question the way in which we measure VCE success. To students who haven’t achieved the score they really wanted, don’t despair! It isn’t the end of the world!

In a subject like Visual Communication Design (which I teach) it’s really quite hard to get a Study Score over 40 (the maximum score that can be achieved is 50).

For students studying VCD that want to enter the creative industry, a super-high ATAR (and even Study Score) isn’t always necessary. Entrance for University courses in the Creative Arts are often gained by students producing high quality creative folios during the course of the VCE year, and an entry interview, rather than through an ATAR score. Therefore, as a VCD teacher, I measure success through whether a student gains entry into the course they want to get into. While I state this in regard to creative arts courses, this belief I have is not limited to such courses.

For example, my youngest sister wanted to study Physiotherapy, but she didn’t quite get the score she needed. However after the 3rd round offers from VTAC, she gained a place in the course. Having recently finished her degree, she achieved many HD’s over the last four years at uni, completed her Honours degree too, and is now working as a Physiotherapist. When she received her ATAR a few years ago she was pleased with how she went, but was a little disappointed that it wasn’t what she needed. That’s all history now though!

If you didn’t get the score you want/need, also consider changing your VTAC preferences for like-courses. So for example, if you really want to be a Psychologist, but didn’t get the score you need, perhaps you could consider applying for Social Work instead. Then after studying that for a year, you may be able to apply for Psychology. Many Universities allow students to switch around like this.

Basically, the point I’m making is that an ATAR score isn’t the be-all-end-all! I noticed many tweets during the day today from current uni students that confirmed this. They tweeted comments to the effect that they got ATARs that were less than what they expected, but since starting at uni, are now doing exceptionally well.

If you’re one of the disappointed students, don’t feel like it’s the end or a waste of a year; there are many other students out there in the same boat. Instead, feel proud that you managed to complete your VCE, and plough through all of those depressing/boring books you had to read for English*. For that alone, I commend you!

If you’re keen to pursue your dream career, you’ll eventually make it there, somehow, somewhere. Once you reach that point of entry into whatever Uni/Tafe course you make it into, not a single soul will care, or ask you ever again about that pesky little score. The ATAR score will become just a distant memory.

Congratulations to the class of 2013, feel proud and remind yourself of all that YOU have achieved during the year. Don’t judge yourself against the achievements of your friends. Instead, consider the barriers you’ve come across during your school years and feel a quiet sense of satisfaction that you made it over the line.

Now go and relax, and be merry, it’s almost Christmas!

* Apologies to English teachers for the comment about 'depressing/boring' books. This isn't a comment on teaching, its simply how I felt while completing my VCE. For example, we had to read a book about Auschwitz, watch a movie that linked to World War II, read a really thick book about a woman dying of cancer and read another book that linked to WWII. After reading/watching these texts repeatedly, I was pretty much turned-off reading any books at all for about 12 months after completing my VCE.

* Also, if you're a student reading this article who has parents who are unhappy with your score, simply explain to them that Steve Jobs was a college drop-out. He did okay for himself in the end!