Your PSLE score does not define you


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 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 standardised 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.  It is a means to an end, but not an end in itself.

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 yrs 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. And 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 is simply too early in life to predict or determine how you’ll end.

Don’t let your self-worth be determined by a set of numbers. It is wallowing 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 a issue to be discussed or worried over. 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.

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 on 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.



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  9 comments for “Your PSLE score does not define you

  1. Zee
    November 24, 2014 at 12:00 am

    Well said Lyn. I really feel for the kids these days. It’s crazy that there’s so much stress put on 12-year olds these days. I really hope that when my turn comes too, that I will also remember that PSLE grades really don’t define a person. It’s going to be difficult in this current environment but let’s try our best! 🙂
    Zee recently posted…Christmas Magic at Changi AirportMy Profile

    • November 24, 2014 at 1:38 pm

      Yes indeed! Even at P1 and P2 some of them are doing 10 schools’ past exam papers! It’s like a 10 year series cos they do 10 exams! 🙁

  2. teh oh
    November 24, 2014 at 6:50 pm

    is it a no longer OK to tell others , hey my son did well ! Even if he manages any score that is representative of the effort he puts in given his abilities, we will say hey son, well done ! But because he did really well statistically, now we had to celebrate in secrecy and tell him it is only a measure of his ability to do well in a national exam and he won’t succeed in life just because of this three digit if he doesn’t work hard. True it is, but hey, rub it in a little boy?

    “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.”
    Seriously i felt offended. These kids really do put in a lot of effort.

    • November 25, 2014 at 11:45 am

      Sure, celebrate a job well done. Never said one has to celebrate in secrecy. The point is to perceive the PSLE t-score for what it is.

      Anyway, my intent was more to encourage those who didn’t do as well as they wished or expected. To say it’s not the end all. : )

  3. November 25, 2014 at 12:18 pm

    I am not a PSLE Parent (yet) but the tension, the anxieties and the tremendous amount of stress that weigh so heavily on the P6 students and their parents are palpable. Many of these driven, self-motivated and hardworking kids took it upon themselves to want to exceed their parents’ expectations. They want to be on par (if not better) with their peers in the same cohort, same stream, inflating that belief that a sterling PSLE result is what will pave out the roads of gold. They are afraid of disappointing their family and letting those who love them down. I believe it is against such a competitive and myopic backdrop that this post is written. As much as we hate to admit, the reality of meritocracy means that the higher your scores, the more choices your child will have in the next stage of education (i.e. secondary school) but contrary to popular belief, the PSLE result does not make or break them. Just like in life, when one door closes, another will open. The children will learn resilience, to grab hold of whatever comes and turn it into a learning opportunity. It is us, the parents who have the responsibility to hold our children’s hand and walk them through this together. For those who worked hard and reaped good results, I say, ‘Good Job’! and ‘Keep it Up’. We rejoice with you and hope you will continue to excel in all you do. May you inspire your peers and don’t forget to extend a helping hand to those who are weaker as you go along.

    • November 27, 2014 at 10:49 pm

      Yes, you totally understood where i was coming from.

      Wholly agree with your points on our responsibilities as parents. It’ll be hard to swim against the strong currents but we must try our best. For our children’s sake, the crazy stress must be stopped somehow.
      Lyn Lee recently posted…Boys’ Brigade Share-A-Gift – 2014 launchMy Profile

  4. April Tan
    November 28, 2014 at 10:02 am

    Appreciate your writing on this. I agree with you to the T

    • December 1, 2014 at 6:16 pm

      Welcome! Thanks for taking the time to leave a note too, it makes a difference. 🙂

  5. December 21, 2014 at 2:39 am

    I am not persuaded by the author’s opinion. I would have hoped to see empirical evidence for each of the claims rather than merely anecdotal evidence throughout.

    There are undoubtedly some ITE grads who go on to become owners of F&B outlets or bosses in SMEs. However, one should never discount the fact that this group went through tremendous struggles to get to where they are. And this group hardly represents the vast majority of PSLE students with low scores.

    Not stressing out kids at a tender age is laudable. But is there sufficient empirical data to show that they do in reality have many other equally plausible career paths where PSLE results wouldn’t matter?

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