On the same day, Wednesday (Nov 23) that the results of this year’s Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) were released, Workers’ Party MP Jamus Lim shared a story over social media about why exam results should not become a “make-or-break moment, where the grades received will forever define one’s future”.
Assoc Prof Lim (Sengkang GRC) then shared that he had failed his macroeconomics comprehensives during the summer between the first and second year of grad school. And one of his professors in macroeconomics also failed the same comprehensive exam. However, his professor became a world-class macroeconomist and wrote one of the main texts used to teach the economics of central banking.
“And having been on the other side—where I make rather than take exams—it’s amply clear that exams are just one hurdle that may or may not be a signal of true aptitude for a subject. Most academics are aware that some of the most creative, productive, and celebrated researchers and professors didn’t actually do well in their coursework, and only found their stride in the later years of grad school,” the MP wrote.
And while the Sengkang GRC MP would not “claim to be as accomplished a macroeconomist” as his professor is, he wrote that he has specialized in open-economy macroeconomics as well as written and published several papers on the topic.
During the summer between the first and second year of grad school, he wrote that he had “buried in my first-year macro textbooks,” in order to pass the exam. And at the end of that academic year, he needed to take “comprehensives,” tests that cover the material for the previous year, and pass them if he wanted to go on to the next level.
“For university, exams are only given at the end of the module, since there is so much more material typically covered in a given module). So in some ways, it’s a bit like the high-stakes PSLE or O/A-level exams, which is likewise cumulative in nature,” he wrote.
Assoc Prof Lim went on to congratulate exam-takers who did well on their exams: “You’ve done yourself (and your parents) proud. Use the success to inspire you to accomplish even greater things.”
And for those who did not do as well, he wrote a note of encouragement, telling them to “just remember that many of us that faced similar circumstances, and managed to rise above them and even prove ourselves in future settings. You can do that, too.”