Standardized Testing

toni.miil69 Blog

In March 2013, I took my SAT test, without any accommodations provided. Although people kept telling me to apply for them because of my concussion, I wanted to see for myself how I would do without them, for my own knowledge and satisfaction. As it turned out, I did not need them.

         On June 8, 2013, I took my ACT test, also without any accommodations. The SAT and ACT tests are completely different from each other, so I had to be tutored again, and learn things in different ways than I would have before my concussion. I found this to be very helpful. The tutor figured out how I am able to best learn the information, and taught me key strategies that would work well for me. For example, she found that I could more easily understand reading passages when they do not contain dialogue. So, a strategy that I learned was to start with the passages that do not contain dialogue. Also, unlike the SAT, the ACT test has a science section, which is composed of several graphs that must be interpreted. Throughout my weeks of tutoring, we discovered that looking at the graphs gave me more headaches. There were many of them on a page, and to my brain, they were “busy” looking. I practiced covering up the parts of the page that I was not focusing on, with my hand. This helped me to look at one graph at a time, so I would have fewer headaches. For the grammar section, we learned that when I whispered the passage out loud to myself, I was able to concentrate more efficiently. These strategies helped to get me through the grueling four and a half hour ACT exam.

         Going into the exam, I felt confident in my preparation. When I got to the testing center, which was at a local high school, everyone was put into one large room to listen to the directions for the test. There were approximately three hundred people in the room, and the visual stimulation of the crowd was a difficult task for my head to handle. I was supposed to take the test in a half hour, and my headaches had already increased. When I finally arrived at my testing room, I immediately noticed a difference than the room in which I took my SAT exam. I took my SAT exam in a room with a navy blue carpet, closed windows, large desks, and about twenty other students. This ACT testing room was smaller, had high gloss light blue walls, a shiny white floor, windows open, small desks, and about thirty other students. The differences between the two rooms had a huge impact on how I was feeling. I was calm and in a tolerable amount of pain at the beginning of my SAT, but at the beginning of my ACT, I was stressed, worried, and in an intolerable amount of pain due to the environment. The brightness and the crowd, like always, triggered my symptoms. At the start of the exam, for the first twenty minutes while we were filling out the bubble sheet, I became dizzy. I was seeing double on the sheet, filling in incorrect bubbles, feeling nauseous, and had many more headaches than usual. How was I supposed to sit here for the next four hours and take this important test to the best of my ability? The proctor doesn’t know I have a serious concussion. Several times, I contemplated giving her my test and going home because I felt so awful, and I was sure I would not do well on the test. Instead, I closed my eyes, took some deep breaths, and drank two bottles of water before the test began.

         The first two sections were where I was feeling the worst. The first section was my best subject so I was happy to be starting at a good point. As I began to feel better, I relied on my strategies that I had learned with my tutor, and this is what helped me get through the entire exam. I felt better by the end of the test, but I was very disappointed that my symptoms increased at such an important time. At this point, I just wanted to go home and sleep.

Taking these two tests was a learning experience for me. Because of my concussion, I did not expect to do well, and just wanted to do my best. I learned that cognitively, my brain was functioning fine, and I did not need accommodations such as extra time to take the exams. However, the environment between the two test centers made all the difference for me in order to take the exams successfully, and this is not something that is taken into consideration for test taking accommodations. If I were put in a room with fewer students, a large desk, the windows closed, and more subdued colors, my symptoms would not have gone up like they did during my ACT test. I would have been more relaxed, and better able to concentrate and take my test. In the future, maybe these could be special accommodations for students who have suffered from brain injuries. I will receive my scores later  this summer, and I am curious to find out how much my symptoms affected my test taking ability. 

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One Response to “Standardized Testing”

  1. robin says:

    We could all learn from your coping skills Madeline!

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