Saturday, 22 June 2013


Every year, around about two weeks ago in June; the year twelves partake in what can only be described as three straight hours of unnecessary boredom. Teachers call it a General Achievement Test, students simple growl and bear their teeth whenever it is mentioned.

You see, the year twelves are all forced into a room for three straight hours to sit an exam that will not have any impact on most of their lives.

The GAT acts as a backup, should we miss our final exams. If we were so unwell that we couldn't make it to an end-of-year exam; the examiners would look at how well we did in the GAT and derive a score from that, as well as from all the other work from throughout the year.

Of course, very few people miss their end-of-year exams, and the derived score is never as good as the alternative would've been, but it's designed to be a life saver.

The test has to cover every subject because it's a backup for every subject, so it feels like an endless list of multiple choice questions, most of which feel irrelevant to anything you're actually studying. The examiners expect us to take three hours to answer them all, but in reality, it takes most students about an hour.

So for the next two hours at least, most of us sit there in silence, doing whatever possible to entertain ourselves. There's the odd exception who are working right up until the three hour mark, but the ones who don't try could be done in thirty minutes.

Being a test, we can't take in any electronic devices obviously. So all we have are some pens, pencils, and paper.

Two hours is a really long time when all you've got is pen and paper to entertain yourself with. Of course, fifty years ago that would've been fine to keep us happy, but not today with our fast-paced electronic games and whizzbang doodle-wops.

But here's the kicker: because this exam is so meaningless to most of us, half the students just won't turn up, or won't do any of the questions, or just randomly answer the multiple choice questions by guessing.

As long as you seriously try to answer all the questions, you're already in the top fifty percent of students because half of them won't try at all.

If you actually do well, you'll find yourself in the top ninety percent in every section of the exam, even if it's not relevant to any of your subjects.

But wait, there's more. Because we all despise the GAT, the people who give it to us, and the process of actually completing it; we more or less abuse it.

Each year some secret phrase is circulated around the year 12s and they all include it somewhere in the written section of their extended answer.

Last year it was Call Me Maybe by Carly Ray Jespen, so all the students put the phrase "call me maybe" into their written response. In the past it's been Baby by Justin Bieber, lyrics to ACDC songs, "Kevin '07", etc. This year it was the infamous "I'm just waiting for a mate".

Personally, being the day after my birthday, I took out a pink highlighter and wrote the lyrics to happy birthday all over all my pages, then I decorated it with balloons, cakes, presents, and all my best friends holding my hands while we sang happy birthday.

It was beautiful.

Then I spent the next two hours doing English homework because, let's face it, there was no way I was going to let those two hours be a complete waste of time. I managed to write out five full pages of a stage play script I've been working on for a few weeks.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the GAT.

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