Whether stated officially or assumed in the unspoken culture of a school the ‘truth’ often put forward is that there is a direct link between success in exams and future success in life. This contributes to the intense “hot house” atmosphere in schools around exam time to such a degree that I have several friends who still, thirty years after leaving high school, have nightmares about not being ready for an exam.
At present there is little help offered to students to manage the stress, and mental health implications of the exam ordeal. Thankfully this is slowly changing, but the myth of links between exam success and one’s future persist.
So is success in life directly linked to success in exams? Is it linked any more or less than the acquisition of any other discipline or skill?
Our future is much more likely to be seriously influenced by things like our people skills, or our ability to network, or especially our capacity to continue to learn and personally grow in social/emotional terms. If anything interferes with any these we are much more likely to find a hard road ahead.
Put more to the point, the only thing that assures success in life is a continuing commitment to personal growth, which enlivens the natural learner within us, and engagement with the world around us through the practices of curiosity, love and resilience.
We are meant to throw ourselves into life, not cautiously carve off a piece of it and put our brand on it! And I would apply this statement even to the preparation for an exam.
As you prepare for any exam don’t put your focus totally on the external event of the exam, but use the experience of however you learn to study, manage your time, and prioritize your tasks to be processes for reflection, and personal growth.
You will grow more yourself the more you step up to the life, both within you and in the challenges this world presents you. This dual learning process will bring increased intensity to your life by increasing the intensity of your attention to the work at hand.
And what about success?
It’s a common idea that we are successful if a certain external outcome is achieved. But it enhances our life more if we concentrate as intensely as possible on the process of achieving an objective but detach ourselves from the outcome.
Success in these terms turns our outcomes into offerings, and the pursuit of achievement less a matter of external rewards and more a life enhancing process in our personal growth.