Julie A. Cunningham

Academic Advisor

Standardized Testing for Big People

This week has been my re-entry into the world of standardized testing for adults…. and it isn’t a pretty place! Yesterday, I took a 2-hour long examination at University of Colorado that supposedly quantified my Microsoft Office, Administrative and Receptionist skills. I was reminded once again how little a test tells about a person’s general knowledge level or ability to creatively solve problems. I’m sure I fared poorly, mostly since I did not prepare for the switch from a Mac to a PC, and mistakenly answered many of the questions with the keystroke of “Alt+key” rather than “Control+key”. (The Alt key is in the same place as the Command key on a Mac, and I assumed.) Will I miss those questions? Certainly. However, in terms of real life ability, it would have taken me literally 1 second to realize the Alt key did not function how I anticipated on the PC, and my next guess would have been the Control key. Given the changes that come with each new iteration of software and hardware, I personally think the ability to adapt to a new circumstance is more productive than knowing the “right” answer. But a computer test can only tell right from wrong, black from white, etc.

My second experience was taking the GRE this morning. I did very little to study for the exam, other than look over the format and review some vocabulary words. Not a good choice! I needed to practice testing in a timed, computer environment. It is a very different thing to take the GRE on computer, where you have no option to skip a question to review later and must answer them each in order in a very limited period of time. I scored well enough to gain entry to Grad School, but barely. And because the test costs $160, it’s doubtful I’ll repeat the experience, even to heal my wounded pride!

This process has caused me to reflect on how my experience relates to the elementary computer lab testing environment. I now realize just how important it is for them to learn to test *well* on the computer for their future academic success. More to come on that after I think things through a bit more.


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