#VicSRCvoices: More than a number

That feeling that your ATAR the be-all-and-end-all? It's not true. Year 12 alum Chester Ngan shares his take on ATAR leaks, assessment critiques and the big world out there waiting for you.

More than a number

After thirteen years of schooling, it came down to a single text message. On Monday 12 December, Year 12 students in Victoria obtained their final VCE results – five days after the unprecedented error that saw over 2000 students receiving their study scores and ATAR prematurely.

Every year, the prospect that a number is the only key to the future adds to the nerves and pressure that surrounds the day we receive the all-important text message. This year, the anxiety was amped up as a number of students received their results unexpectedly on Wednesday 7 December. Those who did well were ecstatic and satisfied, while those who didn’t do as well as they had hoped were understandably left devastated – and the confusion over the authenticity of the untimely text messages added to the tension.

Moreover, students who didn’t receive their results last Wednesday were also worried and tense as they began to estimate their potential study scores based on posts on the VCE Discussion Space Facebook group, and created an online petition calling for VCAA and VTAC to release the rest of the results before the scheduled date of Monday 12 December. 

Although Year 12 student Nicola Press understands the technological failure behind the early release, she believes that “it’s unfair that 2000 students received their results five days early […] but VTAC didn’t allow everyone else to receive theirs”.

Meanwhile, 2015 Year 12 graduate Netania Lim agrees that it is unfair as “VCE results are hyped up, and they do determine your perceived immediate future”. 

“I don’t think it’s unreasonable for VCAA and VTAC to work out the technology”, Netania added.

But the fact of the matter is that Year 12 results are not ‘all-important’, regardless of when they are sent out and what they are. While they are used as a criterion by many tertiary institutions and may determine whether students will be offered their first, second or third (and so on) tertiary preferences, they do not reflect the students’ success, value or worth.

One Year 12 student who received her results early said she was devastated but “would rather not stress now” as there are many pathways and doors to a desired career. For those who got what they wanted, they will most likely be doing what they want to do at their preferred institution. However, those who fell short of the number their first preference tertiary institution required may feel shattered, and that they failed.

But the ATAR does is not a ‘pass or fail’ number – if you get a 50 ATAR it means you performed better than 50 per cent of all Year 12s. Even then, failure itself does not matter. In life, we experience many failures and many successes. It is how we bounce back from failure that counts; it is how we get back up, persevere and fight on that truly reflects our tenacity, persistence and determination.

Year 12s are constantly reminded that we are not defined by a number, and although this is true – it is not reinforced due to several factors. Current assessment methods are structured towards the ‘be-all-and-end-all’ score which is out of step with 21st century learners. There may be familial expectations for a student to do better than their peers, to do better than other family members or to achieve the highest score possible. There may even be incentives and special recognition by newspapers or schools for students who get above a certain study score or achieve an ATAR above a particular number. These are unnecessary and contribute to the pressure of VCE results.

Nowadays many schools use these scores as PR material to promote their school and image. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating success; but you have to ask the question, “What does success actually look like?” Going to school should not be about striving for numbers, rather, it should be about being equipped with knowledge and skills, doing the best you can do and being the best you can be.

Think about it. If we’re valuing the score above all other factors, we’re reducing students’ value to a two-digit, decimal-pointed number. Our value, and our future, is much more than a number.

Regardless of the results, students should be equally commended on their completion of VCE and for doing their best – and ‘our best’ is all anyone can ask of us. 


#VicSRCvoices is a rolling series driven by the stories and experiences of student representatives. It’s about who we are; what we value; what drives us to act; and what fuels our passions to advocate for what we believe in.

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