As the name suggests, the Basic Skills Test is a five-hour-long series of questions designed to ensure that I can read, write and do basic math. (Somewhat disconcerting, isn't it, that the public school system of the US and Canada can't be trusted to achieve this.) To be honest, I was more concerned about having enough time to finish than I was about the test's content. Clearly, I can write, but good writing takes time. In any case, I was fully equipped for the long haul. I had a water bottle, two oranges, a banana and a bagel, ear plugs and my antibiotics. I also had four pencils, an eraser, and a pad of paper. I was as ready as I would ever be.
When I entered the test center, there was one examinee already waiting with her mom. I imagined my mom was home getting ready for Bridge. I was handed a copy of the test rules: no food, no water, no earplugs, no paper, no nothing! I would be issued a plasticized tablet and a dry-erase marker. Ironically, I was not to erase. If I filled my tablet I was to raise my hand and another would be issued to me. I would be video and audio taped throughout the exam. If I needed to leave the room for any reason, I had to raise my hand and wait to be escorted. I would be photographed and finger printed on my arrival and every time I entered and exited the examination room. Should I want ear plugs, a pair would be issued to me. I would also be issued a locker in which to place my effects. (At this point I was thinking that the test center could give some great pointers to the Department of National Defence.)
I did everything I was asked and even smiled for the camera. A young woman requested I turn out my pockets before entering the exam room. My personal set of foam earplugs tumbled out. "You can put those in your locker," she said.
A full half hour after my arrival I was escorted into the exam room. I left five hours later hungry, thirsty, and with a raging headache. I was fingerprinted again before I could retrieve my water bottle and snacks. It was over. I'd share more, but then I'd have to...well... you know!
Let the holidays begin!