Standardized tests, and why I hate them

standardized testsI know I’m not alone in despising standardized tests. I’m sure for the person reading this the term standardized test has just made the shoulders hunch, a shudder run down the spine, and there’s the temporary possibility of vomiting. The nature of these tests is awful enough, and it certainly doesn’t help to consider the corrupt and backwards business practices that continue to turn America into a standardized test nation.

Coming from the UK to USA, standardized tests, at least as they are here, were a rather nasty surprise. I had to take the GRE to go to grad school. Around ten minutes into the test, I had the uncontrollable urge to pick up the computer monitor and hurl it across the room and dance on its remains. Needless to say, suppressing this urge occupied a good portion of my cognition and productivity was automatically stifled.

My issue with the tests is that they’re not personal in any way. When you read through a question, decipher the rules, and subsequently (hopefully) devise an answer, you’ve made a personal investment and your answer is an expression of you. Shading in one or more letter ovals, therefore, feels tremendously dislocated, impersonal, and even offensive (the very thought of crunching circuit boards under my heels is a mild panacea for my unbridled rage against these inhuman assessments).

I have always found that the logic-style questions are the worst. Logic has always seemed so illogical to me. While I fully recognize that logic is a crucial asset in solving problems, I’m not sure that assessing one’s propensity for it is the only way to determine a person’s capacity for problem-solving.

For example.

I came across the following type of question in an LSAT practice book.

A group of boy scouts need to traverse a river. There is a blue canoe with x amount of seats, and a red canoe with y amount of seats. However, Timmy won’t sit in the same canoe as Johnny… yadda yadda yadda… as the scout leader how can you get the boys across the river taking only one trip in both canoes?

My first thought as I bring my hand up to massage my forehead, is Timmy won’t sit in the same canoe as Johnny?

Timmy, get in the damn canoe with Johnny! You can sleep in the top bunk and I’ll give you a piece cake when we get back to camp.”

At this point, I don’t have enough time to answer the rest of the questions.

But here is where I made the personal discovery that logic and pragmatism, although I’m not terrible at them, are not where I can allow my intelligence to shine. I don’t want to live in a world where Timmy won’t get in the same canoe as Johnny. I want to work towards a world where Timmy and Johnny will share the canoe. I am an idealist and an idea-ist. And while pragmatism and logic have their place as methods for progression, they need idealism working alongside.

The only trouble is idealism, along with generating ideas, cannot be assessed by standardized tests, which leaves people like me feeling very let down and isolated. And wanting to dance on circuit boards and broken screens.

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