Whoa. Didn't see that one coming.
You'd studied for 48 hours solid, with little sleep. But your attempts at practice exams at most netted you a 73% -- and you needed a 75 minimum to pass.
You show up at the testing center 15 minutes early for a 12:30 test time. You wait for several other people taking the same licensing exam to check in, chatting briefly. Chatting enough to discover that most of them have taken the test more than once. For at least one person, this was his fifth attempt. Not an auspicious beginning.
You hear the testing center rep (TSR) lay down the law. No hands in your pockets at any time while testing, nothing in the testing room, your belongings will be locked in a locker outside the office, and you still have to turn off your cell phones. You can't take in your own water, but H20 is provided in the test room. You cannot take in your own pencil or paper, but a pencil and two sheets of paper will be provided. The pencils and paper must be turned in when you sign out.
If you leave to go to the bathroom, you must sign out and sign back in, and the clock does not stop on your testing time. One tester asks about the tissue she has in her pocket to dabble her perspiring forehead -- she can keep it, but must put it on the desk. She can't put it in/out of her pocket. The testers are under camera surveillance throughout the exam.
It's your turn to check in and you hand the TCR your legal ID and the authorization letter from the licensing board. Oh, I can't take this, it's a copy, she says. You just stare at her, dumbfounded, lower jaw slightly slack. You've got to be kidding, you respond in shock. Not kidding at all, no she wasn't. And if you can't officially check in, you've forfeited the exam and fee.
The original is back in my office, you say. It's two blocks away, in the other campus building. Can I go get it?
Yes, but testing policy says you absolutely must be back no later than 1:00. You look at your watch. 12:35, there's time. There must be some good karma out there for you, your office and the testing center being so close.
So you race back to your office, head for the elevator to go up to your office on the sixth floor. A vision of you trapped in a stalled elevator, while losing your exam time, flits through your mind. Nah, you'll take the escalator. You're not tempting fate. You arrive back at the testing center at 12:50.
The TCR signs you in, gets your computer going, and you get settled in your cubicle. You take the short introduction to the exam, which doesn't count in your time. Then you click the start exam button and start reading. It is 1:00 straight up. You have four hours to complete the 170 exam questions. You had breakfast at 10:00, so your stomach is settled, at least. You wish you could slow down your heart, and steady your hands, though.
You start strong, whipping through question after question, with little hesitation answering, but a frisson (I love that word) of panic as you click the next question button. A little moment of rapid-er (ha!) heartbeat, wondering if you got this question wrong. One question at a time, one screen at a time, but 170 seems awfully far away.
There is a time clock clicking down the seconds in the upper righthand corner of the screen, but you actually don't obsess about it. You are able to ignore it, partly because it counts down from 4:00:00 to 00:00:00 backwards. You hate backwards counters, you'd rather it click time used than time left. You use your wristwatch to keep track of time, but you seem to be doing well.
Time is endless, concentration is fierce, and if that dude who failed the exam four times already gets up for water one more time you might just kick his everlovin' arse to kingdom come. You take the exam just as the prep course instructor suggested -- one question at a time, don't leave it blank, and don't flag it to come back and check it later. Go sequentially, and go with your gut response after using all the reasoning tools she'd taught us.
Suddenly, you look at the upper left corner and notice you are on question 85 -- halfway there! But wait, it's only been about an hour. Now you wonder what you're doing wrong. And you question yourself. And the questions seem to be more difficult now, and you take longer to read them. Then you are at 100, 120, and it's 3:00. Your tummy is growling, so you begin to think about snacks. And you have a hard time focusing on the questions and must re-read them, then read them a third time before they sink in and make sense.
And finally, there you are. You just answered question number 170. You look at your watch -- 3:30. Whoa, you think. Two and a half hours? There's no way you passed, this is a four hour exam. No one else is done yet, and they all came in before you. You've fucked it up majorly.
The computer screen tells you you've finished, and asks if you want to go back and review questions, or quit the exam. The test prep instructor said not to go back and second-guess yourself, so you spend the next five minutes agonizing, practicing deep breathing exercises to control your panic. This is the moment of truth after all.
Taking a deep breath, you click the quit exam button, and wait for the results. Only to have the new screen ask you if you are sure you want to quit. Damn. Another deep breath, click the hell yes I want to quit button, and inwardly cringe as the screen changes.
What the fuck? you think to yourself. You expect the results screen to come up, you were braced and ready as you'd ever be to take the news on the chin.
A fucking survey question??? Who the fuck puts a survey question at the end of an exam like that? You read it and discover it's a likert scale feedback questionnaire asking you about the licensing board's procedure. You answer, and brace again for the results screen. Only another question comes up. And another. And another. Ten motherfucking questions you have to answer about the board, the testing center, the process.
You click through each question, barely reading, responding with the same agree each time, bracing each time you click next thinking this will be the last. And then a final screen allowing you to give open remarks. Fuck it, you click through that one too.
Later you'll ask yourself just how a board could do something so sadistic to exam takers. And just how valid would the responses be anyway? If the other testers clicked through without thinking like you did, because they won't get their exam results without responding, then the questionnaire results are fairly useless. Perhaps if you'd thought about it at the time, you might have mentioned it in that last open-ended response screen. Nah, you might have irrationally thought it would somehow count against you, and you were too focused on getting that response.
So you click that final next button, brace yourself for what you hope will be the last time, and in a few seconds, the final page comes up. It's in a letter form, one page, with tester information and the next steps in the process.
And then your eye catches it.
Is drawn to it.
Those two words in all caps toward the top of the page under your personal information.
You want to scream, but you're still in the testing room, so your eyes fill with tears as you get up from the chair and walk out of the room to the TSR to get the computer printout. Those dudes still testing probably thought you failed, what with you dabbing at the tears with your fingers to prevent your mascara from running. Your hand is shaking so badly you can barely sign your name to sign out of the testing center.
Instructor Spring? I think not.
It's Assistant Professor Spring, MSW, LMSW to you dudes.
Party's at Spring's house tonight.
Join us tomorrow as we apply Skinner's operant conditioning treatment model to Spring's recent dysfunction. Great fun will be had by all!