By Lizzy Donker.
On a Saturday not all that long ago, I had the wonderful opportunity of waking up at 5:30 in the morning to take a 4-hour long test.
But, unfortunately, I’m not the only one as just about every student who plans on graduating high school also has the pleasure of taking the ACT, or maybe the SAT.
You might be asking why one would subject oneself to such pain and misery?
The answer is simple- we don’t have a choice!
Because apparently colleges have yet to find no other way to assess our 12 plus years of education and real-life experiences than a fill-in-the-bubble answer sheet.
But before I get carried away, allow me to tell you what actually goes down on test-day.
First you get to the testing center, which is usually some random school about an hour away for your convenience and assured performance (which means waking up at about 5 a.m.).
Okay, then if you’re like me and the 30 students I tested with, you then probably sit in the parking lot for way longer than you need to until you come to the realization that eventually you’re going to have to go in and actually take the test.
When you go in, you have to check in, where they require a photo ID. I guess that is to ensure it is actually you taking your test, which it unfortunately always is, and then you get sent down a hallway and on your way to Emerald City.
Then you go sit down in your assigned testing seat, which is always in a classroom about the size of a shoe closet with 15 other kids who all look both half-asleep and like they’re contemplating throwing themselves out the nearby window to get out of having to take the actual test.
And then comes the fun part – the actual test!
But wait, because first you get a 20-minute step-by- step on how to write your name and a three digit- number onto your test.
It seems although we are expected to be capable of completing 60 calculus-level math questions in 60 minutes, we apparently can’t be trusted to write our name on the dotted line. This process in itself is about as dehumanizing as a yearly check-up at the doctor (“do you drink water?”... No, I’ve just been surviving all these years off of cardboard).
Then comes the test. Let me tell you, this is my third time taking this thing and it has not gotten any less painful.
But if the ACT is good for anything, it makes four hours go by in what feels like five minutes. Then, by Gods’ grace, and the three Red Bulls I chugged before the darn thing, the test is over.
Now, as much as I have studied and prepped for the ACT, and am grateful for any and every opportunity to get into a good college, let me tell you the problem – or at least my problem – with standardized testing.
For one thing, after this long process of preparing for and taking the test, I get my scores back. And let me be honest – they were not great. I didn’t do terrible by any means; I just didn’t get the score I wanted to get. In fact, my score actually lowered from the previous test. And although it is still a fine score, and I have the chance to retake it (lucky me), it made me feel lousy.
I actually believe I shed a tear, maybe multiple tears, over not getting a high enough score on this test.
It made me feel stupid, but why should I?
Why should I, or anyone for that matter, give so much weight to this one-size- fits-all test, when it really says absolutely nothing about me or my character.
This test doesn’t measure how nice of a person I am, or my social skills, or any of the things I enjoy doing or am good at. But it somehow still had the power to make me feel less-than. I mean, seriously, in a society where we pride ourselves on being innovative, forward-thinking, creative and individualistic, why is our academic potential based off of how well we can perform on a test?
I don’t have the answer to these questions for you – I’m not even sure the people who created standardized testing to begin with do. But what I do know is that you shouldn’t let the test get you down so much.
I’m aware that I am currently being extremely hypocritical since my last test made me rethink every life choice I’ve ever made, but at the end of the day it really doesn’t matter (okay, so maybe it matters a lot to the college admissions board but that’s not the point, Karen).
So remember, the next time you bomb the ACT, or any test for that matter, try and remember all of the things you are good at and that actually matter.
Lizzy Donker is a Richmond Hill High School senior. She wrote this at the insistence of the editor.