Monday, May 3, 2010

SAT: Student Applied Torture

After arduous research, I discovered that this actually stands for Scholarly Aptitude Test. I just assumed it was Standardized Admissions Test. Close enough. Anyway, it has an essay and a lot of sections, timed to about 25 minutes each (some are less) and tests math, reading and writing. I didn't prepare. I just took the first one to get my bearings (because you can take it as many times as you like and those mysterious people in charge of your future only look at your highest scores) and plan on taking it again sometime in November. If I really screw that up, I can try in January one last time as well. (Remember my weird school schedule? The one that throws everything off 6 months?).

Absolutely everything can be done online. Internationally, there are a few less dates available, but that's the price you pay for living on the outskirts of civilization (just kidding, no cannibalism here). One of my classmates, also applying to schools in the US, whom I'll call Rat (after the computer geek in the movie The Core, my friend loves computers), did in fact have to contact the collegeboard call center because for some inexplicable reason he decided his middle initial was J when filling out the forms. His middle name is actually Andrew (Rat Andrew, has a ring to it, doesn't it?), which is pretty far off from the admittedly cooler J. The lady who answered was extremely sweet and helpful. Thanks, whoever you are.

So I took it in May. The Proctor that watched us was a bit intimidating. He read everything exactly as it was in the booklet and nothing more, with a mild Spanish accent, and very somberly. This wasn't encouraging at all. You feel as if any mistake will get you sent outside in shame.

We begin with the essay. 25 minutes to expound intelligently upon a given subject. One girl asked whether she could print, or had to write in cursive. At least I think that's what she would have asked if she hadn't been interrupted mid-sentence by The Intimidating Proctor and told not to talk during the test. Of course, that question hadn't occurred to me until she said it, and then I was baffled. I eventually printed. The answer, by the way, is write any way you like, as long as it's legible. I plan on writing in cursive next time.

I also plan on finishing my essay. That's right. I didn't finish it. And it didn't help to see that all around me these kids' hands were flashing across the pages and filling them seemingly effortlessly while my floundering brain was still trying to get its ideas straight. Which took about 20 minutes too many, since I didn't even complete the first page.

The rest was all right, though. Math I could handle, reading was wonderful (I read really fast), writing wasn't too bad. Although the variety was incredible, from:

Find the error: She rhunnedk to the store. (the k is silent)

to asking me to correct stuff that sounded awkward and unwieldy no matter what you tried. For those I chose the shortest option with least punctuation. The simpler the better, right? Although I admit that one where I was completely baffled I choose the one with a semi-colon, because I never get to use those (and I was wrong).

Of course, there are mildly annoying things that I over-notice whenever I have to do something important. I always write with pen or mechanical pencil, Number 2s are uncomfortable. The paper for the essay is thin and low quality. My watch alarm might go off. My cellphone might go off (I don't even have one, but I swear for one panicked second I thought "Oh, God, I forgot to silence my phone") You also get 5 minute breaks between every two sections. Which meant I ran to the bathroom between every two sections despite the fact that I hadn't drunk anything since 6 in the morning and went before I even started the test. I left my snack in the car (yogurt, I was afraid of it after the test, probably sour). Once I got past the essay (the confidence shredding first section) I was fine. Time ran smoothly, I worked at a steady pace, double checked questions and only left one blank.

Also, on a completely unrelated note, the person to my right had incredible dark blue eyes. Made all the more attention-grabbing because this country's population has black or brown eyes across the board. Myself included. So I'm not used to seeing blue eyes. Wow.

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