Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The HSC - A Test of Knowledge? I Don't Think So.

That's right; fuck it.

I'm feeling rather relaxed as of late. Sure, the HSC starts on Friday for me, but still...I don't feel like panicking. For the last week or so, I've seen numerous status updates on Facebook from students who are clearly stressed from doing a mountain of study. I advise those people to take it a bit easier on themselves. A head full of anxious thoughts is not what you want to be taking into an exam. I'll admit that I should be spending more time studying, but the ability to study doesn't come naturally. In all honesty, I don't think I've done more than 2.5 hours of study a day since graduating. Never in my life have I written a practice essay by free will (only ones that teachers have demanded). I just can't do past papers. At most, I will do some practice multiple choice questions, but short answers and extended responses are out of the question. I just don't have the drive. It literally amazes me how the top students can muster up the enthusiasm to do past papers. I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with doing past papers, and in all honesty, doing them will most likely help. My study consists of making notes according to the syllabus for each of my subjects (excluding English, maths and visual arts), and then reading over those notes in the days (not weeks) leading up to my exam for that particular subject. Pretty plain and simple, but it's what I prefer. 

Originally, I wasn't going to write a blog about my opinions on the HSC. I thought it may have been a clich├ęd topic. I eventually decided that I would because I am sick to death of people placing expectations on me. Allow me to make an admission: I am NOT an academic person. Sure, I may be smart, but my main strength lies in articulation. I have this...gift of being able to write in a manner which comes across clearly and cohesively. I have a good control of language, that is. I also have a vast general knowledge that would serve me well if I appeared on a game show in the future. I've always said that I have a 'quiz show brain'. A lot of the HSC academics forget about something called 'emotional intelligence'. They may remember everything they read in some textbook, but inside, they are almost wooden or mechanic. I don't even want to be an academic person. Don't you just hate that student who falls short of full marks by ONE mark, and then chucks a tantrum, in an attempt to gain that extra mark? It's reasons like that why I'm glad to be smart in a non-academic sense. Fuck competition. Seriously, I can't stand seeing two or more people hold a grudge against one another because their ranks are close together. Oh, and then there are those students who you see chatting to teachers almost every recess and lunch. For fuck's sake! Go and hang out with your friends! You see, this behaviour stems from the joke that is the HSC.

Now for my thoughts on the fairness of the HSC as a series of exams. The HSC is NOT an adequate test of knowledge. It's a test of who can study the most, and who can subsequently memorise the most. The top kids go so well because they memorise essays to regurgitate during their exams. How is that testing your knowledge? I secretly laugh inside whenever the chosen medium of creative writing for an English exam is something other than a short story, because I realise that most students in the room prepared a story to regurgitate. Writing speed is another issue. A quick hand should not be taken for granted. Writing speed has always been my downfall in exams. It's not time management, since I know when I should be starting and finishing certain sections, and generally stick to those times. It's just that I literally CANNOT GLIDE MY HAND ACROSS THE PAGE FAST ENOUGH. I am left-handed, which is why I probably struggle with that component. Oh yeah, it bugs me when people think they've written the best essay in the grade, just because it's 8+ pages. They usually reach that amount of pages by writing three words per line in incomprehensible handwriting (well, towards the end, at least). I prefer the modest option - writing four to five pages in writing that is legible. I rarely get to five pages; it's usually three and a half. Oh, and most of the knowledge that is acquired during the HSC will hardly ever be used in 'the real world'. Fuck, why do we learn three-quarters of the things we learn in maths? WHEN THE FUCK WILL I NEED TO USE SIMPSON'S RULE? I'm not saying that Simpson's Rule is challenging. It's piss easy, but still, what's the relevance of it to our lives? And yes, I do General Mathematics, for those who were wondering. The English syllabus should focus on teaching grammar and punctuation all the way up to Year 12, rather than only being about the analysis of texts. Seriously, I see some pretty shocking mistakes from some of the guys in my grade, from both Standard and Advanced English.

My top preference for university is Bachelor of Arts in Communication (Journalism) at UTS, requiring an ATAR of 94.05. If I attain that ATAR, even via bonus points, I will consider it an absolute miracle, considering how poorly I study. I expect an ATAR anywhere from the late 70s to the mid-80s. If I get below the late 70s, I will feel as though I could have done better, but it won't sink me into a state of irreversible depression. I don't come from a successful family. Both of my parents dropped out of school before Year 12, and my brother was a Year 10 dropout. For all I know, I could be the first one in my family to go to university. No-one in my family places expectations on me. My mum never forces me to do anything; she just wants me to be happy. Life goes on after the HSC, and as my friend Lucas often says"It all works out in the end." Maybe the resolution won't be perfect, but over time, you'll come to accept it, and you'll probably even like it. For the people who have their sights fixed on an ATAR in the late 90s, I wish you luck, but don't be crushed if you fail to reach that target. Success and fortune isn't everything in life. Be grateful that you have a roof over your head, that there's food in your pantry, that you have a family that loves you. The HSC is a microcosmic speck on the canvas that is life. The most important things in your life are yet to come. None of us truly know what life in the real world is like, but I can assure you that it's not always going to be an easy ride.

Well, that just about does it for this post. For those Year 12 students reading this, I wish you the best of luck with your exams, and if you feel as though you're crumbling under pressure by doing a lot of study, then I suggest you put a good DVD on. Just do it - it's only the HSC.


1 comment:

  1. Whilst I do agree with your opinion that the HSC is not THE defining test of knowledge, there are views presented in this blog that I believe are extremely generalised, views which I admit do offend me.

    First is your view that the HSC "is a test of who can study the most, and who can subsequently memorise the most." I think your forgetting the fact that people do not just pluck their essays or study notes out of thin air. Students must first understand and analyse the concepts that form the basis of these notes/essays, and be able to communicate and manipulate their knowledge on the test day. The way you have painted the picture, all those robots that succeed in the HSC are not worthy of the title of knowledge simply because they do not possess that "natural ability" that you do. Not everyone is brought up in a context that nourishes intellectual development, such as I. So, it is sometimes necessary to force this development, so to speak, through hardcore study. When I was in primary school I was in ESL English. The first complete novel I read was "Captain Underpants" in grade five. It is through forcing myself to perform in the subject of English that I have been able to develop my ability to articulate, to understand literature and effectively communicate. The HSC may not mean much to you, but please don't undermine its value to others.

    The second view I take issue with is that the HSC does not test one's knowledge. I know how an AC induction motor operates, is that not knowledge? That will assuredly be tested in my physics HSC, so doesn't that mean that the HSC does test knowledge? If not, what do you define knowledge as? As some mysterious, intrinsic quality of an individual that cannot be attained through study?

    Talk of physics (the greatest subject of all I must add :) ) brings me to the third and final view I have a problem with. This is your view that the subject English represents the entirety of the HSC. There are subjects such as mathematics, Italian and 4u English that cannot be learnt by simply "memorising essays". These subjects require one to engage with the course material, developing his/her logical, communication and creative skills.

    Well, I hope that you now appreciate the value of the HSC to those other than yourself. I also hope that you don’t continue to generalise the HSC as an essay-memorising fest. I apologise if I have myself misinterpreted your post, or if I'm criticising something you have written without the intention of generalise. Anyways, keep up the blogs Steven, they are awesome.