This morning (June 2, 2001) I took my SAT II's. I will assume that you, the reader, have heard about these, the latest round in the scheme to inundate students with standardized tests, thus rendering any sort of subjective dissection of a student's character completely unnecessary. Uh oh, that was a run-on sentence. Plus, I promised myself that I wouldn't go off on my bitterness tangent for the SAT's...
Anyway, the day started off terrifically, with me not following every piece of advice that I had ever been given about taking a standardized test. These included:
1. "Get a good night's sleep." How funny. Oh wait, that wasn't a joke?
2. "Wake up at least an hour before the test so you don't have to rush to the testing center." I woke up at 7:30. The test started at 8:00. The test center was a good 15 minutes from my warm, wonderful bed.
3. "Don't be stressed." After my ten minute shower I realized that I was going to be late. I ran around my house, frantically throwing on various not-matching articles of clothing and looking for #2 pencils. By the time I was ready to leave it was 7:47. I was on my way out the door when my dad yelled--
4. "Eat a good breakfast!" So I ran back inside, got out a bowl, put three pieces of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and possibly a milliliter of milk in it, and was just taking a loud, easily-noticeable slurp when my mom walked down. Good timing! She almost applauded my eating of a "good breakfast." Luckily she had no idea what was going on. Then I left the bowl on the counter and left to her shouts of--
5. "Don't leave your dishes on the counter!" Oh wait, that really has nothing to do with the whole test taking process. However, she also yelled--
6. "DRIVE SAFE!" Always good, completely not-heeded advice. Especially now that it was 7:52. I did nothing less than 60mph the whole way through all residential areas, and closer to 75 on two lane streets. Amazingly, I made it there by 8:01.
However, the trials and tribulations were not over. In fact, the hilarity was just starting. It took me a full ten minutes to figure out how the parking lot worked. Then I ran out of the car and sprinted up to the door. Or, rather, I sprinted up to the car next to mine, and that was as far as I got. I realized that I had forgotten to wear the brace for my badly sprained ankle. I fell down. My calculator flew ten feet away. Several people stared and then moved on. I sat on the ground and tried to breathe. My calculator continued to lie right in the road, right in the path of oncoming cars... I needed to crawl out into the traffic to retrieve it. The strength would not enter me... after maybe ten seconds of imagining myself screaming hysterically, "It's ok, little calculator, go on without me," I pulled myself together and to a standing position. I picked up the calculator and limped into the testing center. There I waited in the wrong line for ten minutes listening to the two girls behind me talk in not-so-hushed tones about how terrible my purple cardigan looked with my glasses; then one of them saw my testing form and rather rudely snapped, "Like, hello, the SAT II line is over there!" So I limped on over, silently cursing every idiot on this godforsaken planet, and stood in the line. I realized that I had left my wallet, with my ID, in the car. I had to stagger back outside to get it.
By the time I made it to the classroom to take the test I was afraid that I was going to be late. Instead, there was one very very alone-looking person sitting in the far back row. He gave me a terrified look and said, "Are we in the right place?" like I was supposed to know or something. Or maybe the terrified look had something to do with my hair, which looked like it had been caught in a wind tunnel. In reality it had spent a lot of time that morning in a Jeep Wrangler with the windows down. Anyway, I nodded and shook my head at the same time and took a seat. After about a half hour the room was fairly full, and the administrator walked in.
She smelled like a cigarette store. Oh delightful! She slapped down a box ominously marked "Princeton Review." She took out the test books and started passing them out while reading the instructions. She read those at super fast speed so that it sounded something like, "WelcometotheSATII'sbeforewebeginIwanttowishyouallgoodluck--" (at this point she stopped and said, "I have to say that, the book tells me to.") "--Therewillbenocheatingallowedifyousee..." Well you get the point. Basically I have no idea why she bothered or what she said. It seems that we were supposed to be filling out the little boxes for our names and birthdays and other identification information. In fact everyone except the guy next to me seemed to know how to do this without any sort of instruction. For a while this made me feel better, to know that I wasn't alone, but when I discovered that he smelled a lot like a not-appealing mixture of marijuana and alcohol (and when, during the test, he stared blankly at his answer form for forty minutes before filling in every single box and then stalking out of the room) I stopped feeling good. In fact, a sense of prevailing doom overtook me. It seemed like the walls were closing in on me and I was going to fall out of my desk... maybe I really should have eaten something. Or maybe the fumes coming off the guy next to me were affecting me adversely... whatever the reason, I started freaking out. I distinctly remember staring at "Box #7: Gender" for at least fifteen seconds in confusion before marking the appropriate box. (Actually I don't remember if it was tthe appropriate box or not.) Then I asked myself, "What do hermaphrodites answer when they take the test?!" in shock and outrage. Oh boy. I was cracking up.
The fun continued. After spending several minutes trying to figure out how to mark which test I was taking I finally realized what was going on. However, I was now also several minutes into the time needed for that first test. This was the writing section, and I needed to write an essay. The topic was some stupid concoction of the Dementedly Evil Fairies of Political Correctness that (not-so-secretly) rule our government and it was too early in the morning for my mind wasn't fully prepared to spit out propaganda. I wrote the truth, and I wrote it well, and I'm pretty sure that I just failed that test. Then time ran out, right in the middle of my closing sentence. When I didn't put down my pencil I got yelled at. I guess it's against the rules to spend time on your writing. But I'm not bitter.
Break time. I got lost in the hall and limped back from the bathroom-- you guessed it-- five minutes late. I took the chemistry test with relatively little incident, aside from the fact that I forgot what an electron was for the first thirty minutes. The final test-- world history-- rolled around. This is easily my best subject and I was looking forward to finishing early and having some time to sleep.
I was racing along when the lead fell out of my pencil. It was just a little tiny piece, maybe 1/4" long. I thought nothing of it, and clicked the top of the pencil for more lead. I clicked and I clicked and I clicked, and with every barren, empty click I cursed all of this miserable existence with ever more futility. If the pen(cil) is mightier than the sword, I was fresh out of weapons. I realized that I had forgotten helpful piece of advice #7: "Always bring two #2 pencils." Oh yes, I did get down on the floor and look for that piece of lead. My fellow test-takers gave me the looks that most people would give to a violently mentally ill person while they were riding on an elevator. Kind of like, "There's a bomb on the bus!" only slightly more panicked. I found it, gave a silent shriek of glee and jumped back into my seat. This was all hell on my ankle, of course. I surveyed the rest of the test and saw that I was on question #61. There were 95 questions on the test. I had a 1/4" of lead. Oh god. This was bad. No-erasure-allowed time. I read every question over and over to make certain that I was right. I bubbled in the absolute minimum area of the circles. I did not apply pressure in any way to the lead. By the time I was at question #87, I was holding the pencil at an upwards angle when I wasn't answering questions so that the tiny sliver of lead wouldn't fall out and leave me in this wasteland alone, forever. When I answered the last question I was so relieved that I could have burst into song. I didn't, however. I figured that one of my roommates would have fashioned some sort of deadly weapon from her test booklet and committed a little justifiable homicide. Instead I sank back into my seat and smiled warmly at the administrator. She glared back.
At this point I decided to write a node about my experiences. I also vowed to never take a standardized test again. Clearly I'm just too stupid to take these things, let alone pass them. I can't wait to see my scores. I wonder if they mark you off for not filling your name in correctly?