I Didn't Know the Test was Today!


Have you ever failed a test? I don’t mean like a low C or a high D, I mean like a for real F?


My sophomore year of college, I took two semesters of Latin American Studies. I had to have a foreign history elective and that was all that was available when I went to register. It is a really good thing that I’ve never needed significant knowledge of Latin America to be gainfully employed, because let’s just say, I STRUGGLED for my D- both semesters. And to be honest, I’m not sure I even earned those grades. I don’t remember passing a single test.


I do remember coming to each exam thinking I had enough knowledge to at least squeak out an “average” grade and yet the results always seemed to be the same…F. And in my day the F cut off was 50, which meant I was mastering less than 50% of the content every single time. The fact that I’m still twitching a bit about that more than 30 years later is evident of my trauma around that course.


What causes us to fail tests? I’m sure there are a variety of answers but two that stick out to me are:


1) We weren’t expecting it.

2) We weren’t prepared.


Pop quizzes are the worst, right? At least if an exam is on the schedule you have the opportunity to cram and attempt to retain the knowledge, but when it comes unexpectedly, you either know it or you don’t. And if we do know a test is coming and still fall short, the only explanation is that we didn’t study enough or we studied the wrong thing.


So why do tests matter? Because they reveal our level of mastery or identify areas that need attention. The whole purpose of a test is to distinguish between what we’ve learned and what we haven’t.


Although I haven’t been in an academic setting since 1994, I failed a test recently. Not a school test, but a spiritual one. And not just around a general area I’ve never given thought to, but one that I teach on frequently. In fact, I’d dare say it’s the topic I’ve covered the most when speaking to groups. I KNOW the right answers. I KNOW how to fill in the blanks. I should definitely ace a multiple-choice version. But it seems my application isn’t quite there. And it was a pop-quiz…I wasn’t expecting it and I wasn’t prepared for it.


So, what subject sent me back to the classroom?


Comparison and jealousy.


I was scrolling through social media, unaware that a test