Today I am thankful for my good standardized test-taking skills. I awoke before dawn (and almost before my sister Dawn the baker but not quite…) to get ready to take the English CSET. As most of you already know, I’m a teacher, but am looking to expand my options on that front a bit. This test, should I pass, might help me do just that.
I’d been studying the subject matter with what little free time I had for the last month or so (hmm…this curiously corresponds with my lack of blog posts as of late…) and knew the format of the test. Four sub tests, each focusing on a different category (Literary and Textual Analysis plus Composition and Rhetoric, Language, Linguistics and Literacy, and Communications: Speech, Media and Creative Performance). 100 Multiple Choice Questions, 2 constructed responses (critical essays) and 4 short, focused responses. I had 5 hours to finish everything to the best of my ability.
I sketched out in my head the time I thought it might take for me to finish each section (about an hour per multiple choice test, and 3 hours for all of the writing), and made a timeline for myself. After the first 50 questions, I was a little worried because it took me a hair longer than I thought it would…but thankfully the second set of questions took me much less time than I thought, and I was just about spot on with the essays, so in the end I finished with about 50 minutes to spare. If I wasn’t sure of an answer, I eliminated choices that seemed illogical, or far-fetched and if I could eliminate at least two, I felt comfortable guessing. I worked with the passages for the constructed response by taking notes as I read, and outlining my essay before putting pencil to paper.
Many people get terrible test anxiety, including many of my students. When this occurs, it’s really a travesty because traditional means of measuring knowledge can’t be relied upon. I can’t tell you how many of them will fail a test, and when I ask them what happened, they say, “I don’t know. I just went blank.” That could have happened to me today, but instead, I felt like Lightning McQueen at the Piston Cup Championship, raring to go, focused. And for that, I am grateful.