The Test Doesn’t Define You

Tonight? A reposting of a favorite. Because yesterday began two weeks of national AP testing. Because new and old students take the AP Literature test tomorrow. Because students all over our country are in the midst of state tests. Because our culture attempts to define the value of a student based on a number they receive from a one-day testing snapshot. Because I want my students to know how wrong that mindset really is.

So. Tomorrow you will take a test. Bubbling in A or B and sometimes E. Writing essays until your fingers cramp. It will be the test. The one we’ve prepared for by reading and writing and thinking and straining.

And now you’re here. Standing. Wondering if ready is a word you’ll ever feel.

But before the morning breaks and the sun crests over the hill with its pinks brushed against orange—before then. There are a few words I want to whisper. Words I’m desperate for you to hear. Words I hope will shape a thousand tomorrows.

The test you will take? It will not define you.


Gray penciled marks filling in circles will never tell the world who you really are.

So many things will shape and mold your life, and while tomorrow may bend you, it will not dictate the person you are created to become. No schoolroom test will do this.

And really? No test or struggle in life defines who you are. It is how you prepare for the test, react to the test, and accept the outcome that displays your greatness.

As you discover the voice you will bring to others, there are lessons I want to teach you. Lessons not covered in a curriculum.

Lessons you need to know.

If you’ve heard nothing from me all year, I pray you hear me today.

Prepare for the battles. While you’ll never be ready for every test you’re standing in the middle of, your preparation will keep you tall when those around you crumble.

Stand strong during the trials. Giving in, even once, makes it easier to give up again and again and again. Perseverance isn’t for wimps. And you were never created for weakness. You are strong. I see it every day.

Learn from your struggles. You can bring meaning to the painful when you find even the smallest lesson. What can you better understand about the world because of the trial you walked through?

Admit your weaknesses. Arrogance is never respected—feared sometimes, but never valued. Society relishes in seeing the mighty fall, but will esteem those who recognize their limitations.

Act with conviction. Know what you believe and act on those principles. The world will never know your beliefs if you don’t live them fully each day. You are what you believe. If you hold no convictions, if you adhere to no beliefs, if you’re just along for ride, you will never understand yourself.

Know failing is never the same as failure. Defeat can bring focus—a singular clarity that success sometimes misses. You’re only a failure if you never get back up from the fall. And students? You have time to brush yourself off and rise again.

Choose to be brave. Acts of courage cannot exist without fear. It is the dread that requires bravery. The way to fight fear? Be courageous. Be brave because you’re afraid.

Strive for excellence. In everything. Every. Thing. Because working with diligent excellence is saying yes to the brilliant and refusing the idle. No one ever won the race with laziness. Consider Aesop’s Hare. Excellence may take time, yet it’s worth every single slow step.

Bring joy to others. Only when we put humanity before ourselves, do we uncover true value and meaning in this life. The way you give to people defines how society sees you—sees who you truly are. Your heart is always reflected in the way you treat the world.

Know comparison damages your soul. You were created with a voice uniquely yours. No other on earth can be who you are supposed to be for this world. No other can accomplish your purpose. Comparing yourself to another crushes your own potential for greatness.

Seek Truth. Your freedom in this life depends upon the Truths you grasp with both hands. The world and people you love will fail. Truth will not. If in this life you only seek Truth with your entire being, you will find it. And there is no greater success than to uncover its glory.

So. Tomorrow you will take a test. But remember the test will never define you, know the results of an exam do not place a value on your existence.


You have worth and meaning simply because you exist. 

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