GRE test-taking distractions prove toxic to exam itself

Nothing good has ever come from standardized testing.

Anyone unfortunate enough to have been forced to take some kind of national aptitude exam would agree that they never feel comfortable with their performance when they set their pencils down.

That belief applies to my recent experience with the GRE, but this time, I loathed the very test taking itself, more so than any other standardized test-taking experience.

For reasons I don’t wholly understand, the security measures enacted during the GRE were unlike any other test I’ve taken.

Cameras followed my every move through the test center. An aide patted me down, turned out my pockets and waved a wand over my extremities in search of any electronic devices. I couldn’t even take my water bottle into the testing room with me.

After jumping through the flaming hoops of security equivalent to TSA, I finally made it into the testing room with only the clothes on my back and center-supplied writing materials.

I thought I was past the ridiculous amount of security once I took a seat at my personal testing computer, but oh, was I mistaken.

On each terminal hung a pair of soundproof headphones. I figured I wouldn’t need them because the only sound I thought I’d hear came from strangers’ fingers typing at neighboring keyboards throughout the room.

But halfway through the test I realized why those bright yellow headphones hung depressingly on each terminal.

Every five minutes a testing aide would open the door, walk the length of the room, stand for a moment right behind me and glance over my shoulder at my screen. Every. Five. Minutes.

It goes without saying how distracted I was.

Plus, I could see the silver orbs on the ceiling that concealed the hidden cameras, and one was perched right above my head. If I had already been searched and a camera recorded my every move, then why was this incessant security distraction necessary?

I did put forth substantial effort to study for the GRE. I poured over vocabulary notecards and tried in vain to relearn some of the basic math skills I had lost over the years.

I also took the time to take a few practice tests, but no amount of practice could have prepared me for the annoying pest of an aide who interrupted my concentration every few minutes.

Standardized testing is bad enough as it is; it’s not an accurate scope to evaluate anyone trying to pursue higher education.

And with how difficult the GRE is in its own right, making the testing environment obviously detrimental to test takers only serves to scare them off from even attempting to take the Graduate Record Exam in the first place.

It just makes me wonder if anyone’s in my corner in my pursuit of higher education.

 

DAN KUBACKI

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