My Academic Degradation: Taking the GRE

Meredith Larson
Northern Illinois University

very time you think you're safe, there they are, hunting you down. 
Everywhere you turn lies yet another standardized test.  After the 
Iowa Basics, it was the ACTs and SATs, and now, if you're even 
entertaining the thought of graduate school, you're going to have 
to take the nefarious GRE. Early this month, I had to submit myself 
to this baneful exam.  In preparation, I took pretests, learned words 
I'll never actually use, thought about etymology and sentence structure, 
and played logic "games" in my spare time.  And the week before my test, 
I got what I thought was the stomach flu but what a friend of mine told 
me was the merely a psychosomatic manifestation of repressed anxiety 
making me feel as though even my shoulders were going to puke.  On the 
day of the test, as I sat in the Sylvan Technology testing room, I 
realized that my suspicion was well founded: standardized testing is the 
root of social woes and chaos.  

The truly frightening thing is that the effects of standardized testing 
have long been known, and no one has--as of yet--slain the testing dragon.  
Back around the turn of the century in China, a man name Dong Xiaping was 
studying for China's major standardized test.  In order to acquire even 
an entry-level civil service job in China, one had to memorize and be able 
to transcribe huge portions of Confucian text on an exam.  Dong studied 
and studied (much as I did with the help of Kaplan) and took the exam 
repeatedly.  Each time, he failed, and it finally caught up with him.  
He snapped.  Dong thought he was the incarnation of Jesus Christ's little 
brother, decided to overthrow the Qing Dynasty, and started a fourteen-year 
rebellion, leading to the deaths of hundreds of Chinese men and women.  
All of this because of--you guessed it--standardized testing. 

Lest we fool ourselves into thinking that such reactions to standardized 
testing are a thing of the past, let me remind you of the student suicides 
in Germany attributed to that nation's testing practices and the hundreds 
of British children's lives that were forever affected by that nation's 
standardized testing and tracking system which, as was later discovered, 
was based in fabricated data.  Standardized testing is used to evaluate 
educational programs as well as to determine what type of and level of 
education a student should receive.  In theory, these are noble ends, 
and in theory, the testing should work. But does it, and, more importantly, 
are there casualties?

The infamous "They" force us, push us, command us to take the GRE and for 
what?  What does it actually prove of our ability to communicate and to 
adapt, to interact and to advance?  It says nothing. 
 
So, my fellow undergraduates, as you flirt with graduate schools here and 
there and deal with GRE anxiety, keep a few things in mind: (1) please, 
don't kill yourself or anyone else, (2) numbers don't reflect your personal 
worth (you're good enough, smart enough, and doggonit, people like you), 
and (3) not all departments care about all aspects of the test (some 
English departments don't care about math scores, so you can just fill in 
the circles).