Enough with the tests

Is it just me, or is our society obsessed with test taking?

It feels like every time I finish studying for supposedly the most important test of my life I turn around and start studying for an even more important test.

In elementary school, it was all about the TCAP.  Teachers would desperately cram in as much testing material as possible to the point where they had to teach only for the test.

You want to know why fish have gills?  Too bad.  It’s not on the TCAP

I remember one year in elementary school my teacher stopped teaching social studies and history completely a month before the TCAP began because so much was riding on students scoring high in math.  

Even at that age, I remember noticing how stressed the teachers were.  We would practice how to fill in bubble sheets all the time.  At least once a day teachers would warn us about test anxiety.

I wasn’t nervous about the test at first, but after the 20th time I was told not to be nervous, I started to get pretty anxious.

It felt like everything was riding on this test.  That’s a lot of pressure for a second grader.  I was sitting there trying to decide what ice and steam had in common, and all I could think was, “Don’t be nervous!  Fill in the bubble completely!  Budget your time wisely!”

Years later, I entered high school.  Before I even memorized my locker combination, I was warned about the ACT.  

By sophomore year I still hadn’t purchased a practice book and I started to get nervous.  

As a bit of a side note, has anyone looked at the prices of standardized test practice books lately?  Some of them are obscenely expensive.  I have college textbooks that cost less.  

Finally I gave in and bought a practice ACT book.  Every Saturday I’d spend a little time working my way through the book.

Compared to the pressure to score well on the ACT, the TCAP test was nothing.  There were posters up all over the school with a clear message:  Want to go to college?  Score high on the ACT.  

Right next to that poster would be another one with the message:  Want to be successful?  Go to college.

The photographs on those posters always bothered me. Remember the “study hard” posters?  There was a beautiful model in a sweater vest smiling as she highlighted terms in a brand new looking textbook laying on a clean desk.

I don’t know about you, but when I study for a big test I’m surrounded by books, handouts, notes, empty soda bottles and granola bar wrappers.  I’m wearing an old hoodie, not a sweater vest.  And I am most certainly not smiling as I highlight three different names for the exact same thing.  

You know what I’m talking about.

“A, also known as B, is commonly referred to as C.”

 I have a sneaking suspicion that some members of academia rename things just so they can get their name in a textbook.  For my sanity’s sake, please stop.  You get your name in the index.  I get five points taken off when I can’t remember your word.

My entire potential as a functioning member of society is narrowed down to a transcript filled with test scores.

If I had gotten one point higher on the ACT, my scholarship amount would be almost double what it is now.  You have no idea how much that one point haunts me.  Just one more correct answer about one more vocabulary word and my financial burden would have almost disappeared.  

In case you hadn’t already guessed by the tone of this editorial, I’m once again experiencing the joys of standardized test taking.  

Even as a senior in college I can’t escape them.  Now it’s time for the GRE.  

Then again it could be worse.  A lot of you are studying for the LSAT, the MCAT or an entrance exam created for one specific school.  

Keep your spirits up.  I’ll be with you in the library, coffee in one hand and calculator in the other.