aliens don’t wear hats

I took the GRE today. About halfway through, I wanted to quit. Oh, I’d studied all right. Spent hours mulling over verbal and quantitative reasoning questions and test-taking strategies.  But you couldn’t have told.

Three hours into the test, the computer screen went from glaring at me to making faces at me. You don’t know how to do this, it said. And you thought you were prepared.

Oh, bug off, I spat back, and then looked around to make sure no one was listening. A video camera was watching my cubicle, recording my every movement so as to prevent me from even thinking about trying to cheat. Or from bombing the place. Or from talking to my computer screen.

It’s been like that in every standardized test I’ve ever taken, though. An exorbitant amount of information crammed into 30-minute increments over a period of hours. The best way to prepare for the test is not to brush up on your skill set, but to “learn the ropes” of the test itself—the types of questions that will be asked, the various formats, and, of course, how the test will be scored.

And what does that show, really? How much I know, or how well I know how to take a standardized test?

But I’m not here to argue for or against standardized tests. I understand why they are needed and why educational institutions won’t be moving away from them any time soon.

At this point, I’m just wondering, Honestly, how was I supposed to know the answer to this?!

* A thanks to my friend, Mark, for showing me the above cartoon while I was living in Hong Kong. Also to my friend, Luis, for helping me prepare for questions just like these!

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