Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I hate standardized tests

Like many people, I share a long and bitter history with standardized tests. Mine began in kindergarten, though why I had to take such a test then is beyond my understanding, or recollection. I do, however, recall the argument:

It was one of these--"Which one of these do not fit?" and they'd have, say a dog, cat, fish and giraffe. The latter, of course, is not a common household pet and thus, for the simplicity of my example, was the correct answer. The question I recall is a bit more involved. I was given the following geometric shapes:

a.) square
b.) rectangle
c.) circle
d.) triangle

Which of these do not belong with the others? Well-its tricky, if you ask me, even now. See, the answer is the circle--it doesn't belong because it doesn't have any pointy edges/angles sticking out, right? But I argued long and hard with the lady giving me the test. The square, rectangle and circle all have one thing in common--that is, they can all be divided up easily into four parts, while the triangle cannot. And so I had insisted upon the poor little triangle whilst it indeed appears I was sposed to vote for the circle.

I share this story because I am attempting to prepare for the GRE, but running into the same type of problem. For example, here in the "analogies section":

14. SKI : SNOW
A. drive: car
B. gold: putt
C. dance: step
D. skate: ice
E. ride: horse

What was your answer? Don't bother defending it, if it wasn't "E" as there's no such chance on the test itself---perhaps explains why I am particularly bitter. But, just to humor ourselves (and for people to educate me, if I am indeed being asinine ), don't you think that the relationship, analogically speaking, is closer between ski/snow; skate/ice, than it is between ski/ride; snow/horse?

askdfjtuioeghiudhviuehfgerughweiurtywetr--in other words, "grrrrr"

I hate standardized tests.

I have another example:

A. mare: stallion
B. milk: cow
C. fly: parasite
D. sheep: grass
E. drone: bee

My thought was "C" because a tarantula is a type of spider, as as fly is a type of parasite ( although i suppose this is arguable?). I was indeed tempted by "E" I will admit, but was immediately concerned with the fact that typically all the drone bees are male, and a tarantula spider is by no means automorically male. Thus, I opted for C and was corrected. I should have gone for E, the correct answer.

Am i absolutely wrong about my approach to these craptaculous tests? I have yet to meet a single person with a positive attitude towards standardization of this sort, except of course for those who score well on them. These are the people I just hate in my heart, secretly, whilst I heartily congratulate them on their performance, after whcih I suddenly have a bout of coughing, that sounds like this:

*cough* pull a TONYA HARDING *cough*

but my body guard never comes through.

I had to go through summer school because I couldn't pass the 9th grade proficiency test in math; it wasn't until my third time through that I passed (I"ll have you know that i flunked by 6 pts the first time and 3 pts the second time). Meanwhile, I went on to take "Math for the Life sciences" (essentially precalc/calc) at the college level (one of those big lecture hall courses) when I was 16 and received a B+.

Typically--though its been a lil while since I've filled out an application (I've got plenty of practice comin up)--there's a slot wherein you can explain your shortcomings insofar as standardized tests are concerned. I have an easilyo demonstratable issue with these tests and yet, I am reaching a point in which I'd prefer not to accentuate any hint of an illegitimacy on my part and instead focus on the illegitimacy of the tests, and the testing system itself! Yes, I feel that there is a shortcoming regarding the procedure and practice of the GRE itself...take THAT. I hope that somone readig this can enlighten me on exactly what the GRE is able to do that a decent interview (whether online, via telephone, or in person) cannot.

We complain about these automated systems that dominate our lives now-whether its "please hold, we have an important message..." or "due to a significant call volume, all operators are currently busy with other calls..." or "please listen carefully to the fllowing options, as our menu has changed [but the menu is always the same!]" but I am as of yet unconvinced that these crap-ass fill-in-the-bubble tests, or 'click here' tests, are anything different than an automated weeding out process in lieu of an actual interview. In thirty years, or less, dear god I hope, when I conduct new-student applications, perhaps I will be corrected. In the meantime, if someone reads this and finds my assessment to be absolute malarky, please say so. Otherwise, I will continue to spout off and be generally cranky.

If nothing else, it might make me stick out more than my fellow applicants, who would likely spend their time more wisely explaining their 'test taking shortcomings', than my aggressive "GRE Blows" approach. Perhaps I am experiencing a bitter moment in my preparation for the test, forgive me.


Dr. Virago said...

You should see the LSAT, where the object is not to choose the "right" answer, but the "best" answer.

Anyway, in your first kindergarten test example, I might have chosen fish, for all sorts of reasons, even in kindergarten: it's not a mammal (if I knew that yet), it has scales, not fur, it doesn't have four legs, etc. I don't think I would've even thought to choose giraffe.

I would have probably gone for circle, but I can see your argument for triangle. That's some abstract thinking you were doing as a young'n!

As for the GRE...yes, it sucks. And yes, it *is* used as a weed-out. But most people I know only make use of very high or very low scores. The first makes up for short-comings elsewhere, especially in GPA; the second sets off alarm bells where other things are solid. So as long as you score in a decent percentile (above 87% -- the equivalent of a B+), it won't likely do you any harm.

As for those questions, the first one looks like the kind they'll throw out. It is truly ambiguous. The skate: ice choice is there as what Princeton Review calls a "Joe Bloggs" answer -- it's supposed to attract the careless with its easy associations (ice and snow, in this case). But in this particular question's case, it could be right, even down to grammar -- ski, skate, and ride can all be nouns or verbs.

In the second example, fly:parasite is also the "Joe Bloggs" answer. In this case, the easy and instant associations are between spiders and flies. Drone: bee is the better answer because of the more direct association between the two. A fly is a type of...well, that could have a lot of answers, most of them more direct than "parasite" (and is a fly technically a parasite?). And really what they're doing is testing if you know what "drone" means in this case -- it's a type of bee.

So look out for and try to eliminate the "Joe Blogg" answers first -- the ones that have that false kind of 'word association' obviousness to them.

I got an "A" in Crazy Beeyotch said...

Yeah...unfortunately I've taken the LSAT. I figure if I can get past that, then bring it on, GRE. The funny thing is, for the terrible rep the LSAT has 'mongst scholars, my dad told me not to bother preparing for it. "You've got a college education" he said "You'll be FINE."
Worst advice, ever.