T is for Test-Taking

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Welcome Margot Roberts! Margot is one of the many friends I made when I lived in Baltimore. She was my wing-woman, my sidekick and we were inseparable every weekend (and most weeknights). From movie nights, sushsi dinner and bar hopping, she is one of my greatest friends to this day. She's a driven woman and that is one thing I've always admired about her. Since I've known her she's been studying and excelling in her professional career. You're going places, Margot Roberts. Never forget that!

T is for Test-Taking
By Margot Roberts

From the moment Amanda sent her mass email requesting guest bloggers for her June A-Z Series, I knew what topic I wanted to write about. At the time, I was two months into a two and a half month wait to get my bar exam results. That means I was also four months into a period in my life where small panic attacks seemed to be an almost daily occurrence. From the pressures of studying, to actually taking the test, to the agony of waiting for results, I was at my wit’s end.

So when I got the email, I knew immediately that I wanted to write about a topic that has been on my mind a lot lately: test-taking.

We are a nation of test-takers. Beginning in grade school, our performance is based on a series of tests on various and increasingly more difficult subjects, to standardized tests that force a diverse group of individuals to be graded by the same standard. Then, there are tests to determine our eligibility for higher education. Then, college exams (fancy name for test). Then, tests to determine our eligibility for further higher education. More exams. Licensure tests. Continuing education. The parade of tests is seemingly endless.

I failed my first test when I was 27 years old: the first part of the CPA exam. Much to my surprise, the world did not end. And, my family and friends did not think I was failure. Despite being unsuccessful, I felt relief. The fear of failing had been the basis for my stress for over twenty years. The end result was merely that I had to take it again, which I did, and I passed.

During this time, my mother was also facing her own test-struggle. My mother became a teacher as her second career. She was told at the time that she would be able to teach high school math if she passed the Praxis 2 in business (which was her first career). After more than ten years of teaching, and at 54 years old, they told her she could no longer teach high school math under her current certification. She would either have to pass the Praxis 2 in math, transfer to middle school, or retire. In the ten years my mother had been teaching at the time, she was a finalist for teacher of the year in her county twice. If there is one thing I will take a moment to brag about my mom is that she’s an excellent teacher. She has a way of reaching the kids who most cannot.

Because my mother did not want to retire or transfer to middle school, she began studying for the Praxis 2 in math. Over the course of two and a half years, my mother took the test three times before passing on her fourth try. Seeing her battle herself in the way that she did and seeing her doubt herself in the way that she did was heart-breaking.

While I do think there must be assessments for fitness to practice a particular profession, the Praxis 2 in math required my mother to learn calculus at 54 years old, despite never teaching that subject or having taken the class. Her professional record of success is indicative that she was qualified to teach the subjects she was assigned. And yet, she had to pass a test in order to continue teaching.

During the weeks of studying for the bar exam, I had to come up with something that kept me from a having a meltdown almost every day. There was too much material, there wasn’t enough time, I couldn’t do it. The thought of spending several years of my life in law school and not crossing the proverbial finish line was overwhelming. However, I was talking with a good friend one day, who reminded me that even if I failed, I would still be Margot. We would still go get drinks, talk about life and how this election got out of hand, laugh at inappropriate times and love our puppies. It got me thinking and I came up with the following motto: Success, nor failure, on an exam defines who you are. 

While I often forgot the motto over the course of studying, knowing the truth of the statement helped me avoid the dread and fear of failing. My hope in offering this guest blog is to pass the message on to others. Passing does not change who you are – it may change what you do for a living or how much money you make – but it does not define you. Likewise, failure does not have that power. So, if you are reading this and you have an upcoming test, exam, quiz, final, review, assessment, etcetera, I hope you know that success, nor failure, on an exam defines who you are. You do that.

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