Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Back to Basics

I arrived at the test center thirty minutes early, not because I'm like that, but because my email confirmation insisted that I must. I was there to take the ICTS Basic Skills Test, the first of three licensing exams that will qualify me as a teacher.

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!


  1. Hilarious, though I must say, you ill-disguised your sarcasm and and indignation. Again hilarious. I'd really like to know how you did, you know like did they want basic addition or did you have to do long-division (my personal nightmare). But please don' know...kill me. xx

  2. This has reached a new level of absurdity even for America. You must be so grateful to be a Canadian.

  3. Wow! They took their job seriously! We got to bring in pillows for the chairs for the Colorado Bar Exam - and that meant trusting a bunch of lawyers!