College English Assessment Test…WTF?


Last Thursday night, I had the pleasure of experiencing my local community college’s English Assessment Test. This is a placement test designed to appropriately place incoming freshman in English classes.

All good.

So the morning of the test, I go online and take advantage of the “Practice Assessment Test”. The practice test consists of one reading comprehension question example. So off I go to a full day at work, looking forward to getting off and beginning part two of my college career. It was not without a great deal of whimsy and reflection that I drove to the college that night remembering making the same trip only 34 years earlier. I am enrolling at the same college that I took my first college course in 1979.

Long day at work ends and I head out early as I head to the school. The website advises to plan on a 2.5 hour test and bring a #2 pencil and student I.D. Check.

I arrive and check in and am seated next to a stunningly beautiful woman near my age who could have easily been a high-fashion model in her earlier years.  High cheekbones, laser-like hazel eyes and pencil thin, perfectly formed lips. O.K., I’m off to a good start.

Here’s where the train starts to feel like it’s coming off the tracks. As we are led into the room, and I seat myself across from my future wife (I have an astonishing ability to ignore the massive diamond ring on her wedding finger) the proctor hands out part one of FIVE separate tests. And guess what Sparky? It’s a friggin’ ESSAY test! At this point I’m starting to scream bait-and-switch in my head but I’m game so here goes…

Choose one question, address all the issues, keep your answers succinct and within the two blank pages given. And WRITE your response with your #2 pencil. What.The.Hell????  I have not written two pages of ANYTHING with a hand writing instrument in at least two decades. Much less with a damn #2 pencil.  And I stopped using cursive nearly 30 years ago as all my writing was done block style on computer scanned reports.  EVERYTHING I’ve composed in the last generation has been typed.  Oh joy…

I choose the more controversial of the two topics and begin to panic a little as I struggle to recall appropriate college level essay construction (remember I was only prepared for reading comp questions). As my panic spreads, I force myself to relax and simply attack the topic as I would a blog post. This immediately calms me down and reminds me that if I do need a refresher in these areas, an honest effort on the essay will be best.

I knock out a very tight 1 1/4 pages that I’m happy with and end with about 5 minutes to spare. My pencil lead is a nub and my hand hurts. It does allow me to steal glances at my partner across the table who seems to be struggling with her work…alternately frantically writing and erasing. I feel more at ease.

The next four components of the test do indeed include a reading comp section and three syntax/sentence structure and vocabulary areas. All mind-numbingly easy and frankly I’d be surprised if I didn’t ace it.

Test over, I finish early and leave my future wife with her scantron as I walk out into the cold air of the parking lot around 11 p.m. What have I learned?

  • Don’t trust “practice” tests
  • Plan on upping the strength on my reading glasses…those small words get blurrier after a long day at work
  • Enjoy the ride and welcome to part two of my future

About Conversations With The Moon

Divorced father of two amazing young adults. College student, plodding away at a liberal arts degree. Formerly a Fire Captain and Paramedic. Dabbler in fashion. Liberal. Believer in Karma. View all posts by Conversations With The Moon

3 responses to “College English Assessment Test…WTF?

  • kingmidget

    Based on the level of your writing skills as evidenced by your blog, and my experience seeing what my “end of high school” kid writes, as well as the quality of writing coming from people coming out of college, I have ABSOLUTELY NO DOUBT that you will do just fine.
    I get the scary feeling, however. What would bother me the most is the idea that you only get two pages to answer the question. In the typical introductory paragraph, three-five paragraph body, followed by concluding paragraph, how the hell are you supposed to fit all that onto two handwritten pages? That would be my panic, as well as being convinced nobody would be able to read my handwriting.

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