The teacher explains everything to us and hands out the forms and pencils.
“You’ve got about thirty minutes to complete the test” she says. “Study the question and then choose your answer from the given choices, A, B, C, D or E. When you’ve chosen your answer, take you pencil and colour in the square on the answer grid.”
It’s 1984 and the dawn of multiple choice exams. We’re in the future now. We’re going to be tested by a computer to see if we’re thick.
“What if you change your mind, miss?” says some smart alec.
“Good question. Don’t rub out your answers, just put a large cross through it and make another choice.” she says, “We can then feed the sheets into our computer and it will record you answers instantly.”
It all sounds like a great idea. The computer will read the carbon from our pencil leads I presumed. But what a great test, just look at it, they were actually giving us the answers! How hard can this be?
It’s announced that the test has begun and we all start reading the questions. The fact that they’ve given us the answers was no consolation at all as the four alternative answers are so believable that they might as well be the answer too. How could I tell which was the right one to put? I’m used to giving a considered answer to a question and justifying how I arrived at it. here I can only guess. There are questions like, ‘which is the next shape in the sequence’, ‘if it takes so much time for so many men to dig a hole, how long will it take half a man to dig half a hole.’ that sort of thing. This isn’t as easy as I’d imagined. What are they trying to find out about us? I start to sweat and second guess my own answers. I try to get inside the head of the examiners, knowing they’re trying to trick me.
I look up and around the hall at my compatriots. They all have their heads down. Except one scruff who has his hand up. His pencil is broken. I look down at the answer grid again. Forty questions are listed down the sheet. Five boxes, A to E across. I look at the first twelve answers I’ve put. On the grid they don’t look quite random. There’s a pattern forming. It reminds me of the reel of paper computer tape my Dad had given me that contained a programme, punched in dots, for one of his machine tools. Perhaps the answer grid works like that here? Perhaps the dots of my answers create a pattern of their own, an answer to a much bigger question? A light comes on in my mind. That’s what they’re looking for! The questions are just on the surface, leading the brightest minds to ponder their meaning to solve a greater, more meaningful riddle!
The pattern formed seems to look like a double-helix, like a strand of DNA, spiraling down the answer grid. I’ve found it! I re-arrange my answers to better suit the DNA pattern and complete the answer grid based on my startling new hypothesis. Then it’s all over, time’s up. Papers and pencils collected. Breaktime, we all go outside.
They say that a monkey can get at least 28% in a multiple test. A monkey. If you filled it in randomly you’d get 28%. If you just put all As you’d get 28%.
I got 16%. Less than a monkey, and got put on the stupid list.
In the end, what did it actually prove? Was I in effect extremely clever for imagining that there was so much more to the test? Or was I really extremely stupid for imagining there was more to the test?
We don’t know. That’s why I hate tests and that’s why you should too.
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