They are hardly shining examples of those who achieved all they did because of success in the classroom.
But according to intriguing new research, school tests are by no means a measure of true ability - nor can they be used as a tool to predict future success or abject failure.
The study, by the Chartered Institute of Educational Assessors (CIEA), found that as many as 77 per cent of people believe that formal examinations fail to reflect their true intelligence.
Sour grapes? Perhaps, but there are those who have successfully bucked the trend. They include Gordon Ramsay, Ralph Lauren (who quit college to sell ties in a New York men's store) and degree-less business knights, Richard Branson, Philip Green and Alan Sugar.
Then there's fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, Radio Four's interrogator-in-chief John Humphrys, the BBC's Terry Wogan, chat show legend Michael Parkinson and finally the X-Factor's Simon Cowell. Not one of them made it to university.
Not surprisingly then, just three out of 10 people associate exams with 'a sense of pride', according to the CIEA study which was based on the responses from 2,000 adults.
The research also found that 62 per cent spoke of feeling 'butterflies in the stomach' moments before they were due to sit an exam. Other reactions included headaches, insomnia and vomiting.
Pupils in England currently sit an average of 70 formal examinations, whilst primary school children are now subjected to more tests than their international counterparts.
Yet, 60 per cent of teachers who responded to a separate online poll for the CIEA said they did not think exams were necessarily the best indicators of a pupil's ability and were not reflective of their future success in a job.
'Exams don't suit everybody,' said Graham Herbert, deputy head of the CIEA, which aims to improve senior examiners, moderators and markers. 'They don't tell the full picture. Most adults agree that their performance in exams does not reflect their true abilities.
'That is not to say we should get rid of exams. What we need is a supplement to the exam system, a supplement that can be relied upon. And that supplement could be teacher assessment.'
The CIEA is training qualified assessors through its Chartered Educational Assessor (CEA) initiative and aims to place 3,000 of them in schools across England by 2011. Already 33 are in place, with a further 70 in training.
Mr Herbert said the reliance on exams meant that many schools were now focusing on teaching for tests.
'If you say the purpose is to put a school in a rank order, then it becomes a high-stakes test,' he added. 'People get really nervous about it because their reputation is at risk, so they tend to teach to the test.
'That means that their learners jump through the hoops put there by the exam, rather than testing their ability and their knowledge.
'Take Richard Branson and Winston Churchill. They are two very famous, highly skilled individuals who were both poor exam performers. So exams don't necessarily on their own bring out the best in individuals.
'And they become stigmatised by that. A lot of adults feel that. From our survey, the majority, it seems.'
MUHAMMAD MAHTAB BASHIR