Monday, June 25, 2007

Differential Aptitude Tests in Action

In Grade 9, my classmates and I took a series of multiple choice tests that supposedly held the very keys to our futures. We were solemnly told by our Health Education teacher that, should we (for example) want to be a high-end fashion designer when we grew up, we'd best be scoring high on the Space Relations battery. Likewise, if we had set our hopes and dreams on being a Junior High Health Education Teacher when we were older, we should really try to ace the.... um, 'Health' section of the test. (An aside: There was no 'health' section to complete, but I'm sure our teacher tried to tie in his own Differential Aptitude scores from fifty years earlier with his current career path. He was just that sort of teacher. Dustin D: 'The world, she's a round!" It was him.)

Anyway. Despite having taken those dreadful tests over a decade ago, I still remember them clearly. I remember the stress of the timed exams and feeling the weight of the professional world bearing down on my fourteen-year-old shoulders. I remember the Spelling Test, and how I decided that 'muslin' was spelled incorrectly, only to find out literally the day after that it was a type of fabric, not something pertaining to the religion, law, or civilization of Islam as I had thought when I marked my answer down in HB pencil. (CURSE THOSE MUSLIN CURTAINS!!) But mostly, I remember the agonizing frustration and the crushing defeat associated with one test battery in particular: Space Relations.

The Space Relations section of the test was designed to measure my ability to visualize 3D objects from 2D pictures. The first questions weren't so bad: they depicted a simple pattern, like a rectangular box unfolded and laid flat on a table, and we had to decide which of four pictures best resembled what the box would look like when it was put together. It was only when the box patterns started getting more irregular, decorated, and complicated that I ran into extreme difficulties.

I had a horrible time trying to figure out which face of the box some dots or lines would end up on when a particular box pattern was put together. And I couldn't for the life of me decide if the 45-degree section of the box would come out on the left or the right side of the box when it was done, try as I might to fold that box together in my mind. When it was all over, I felt utterly deflated. Gone were any dreams I had of being a Fashion Designer, Engineer, or Architect. Gone also were my more realistic goals of working in a shoe store or anything like that when I became a full-fledged high school student-- god forbid I not be able to put the damn box together!

When the test scores came back, we spent an entire class period colouring in our own percentiles on a bar graph to indicate our aptitude for each section. (Looking back, I'm pretty sure it cost extra to have the test scores graphed on a computer for us. Hence, the pencil crayons and cheap student labour.) Most of my test scores were extremely high: 99th percentile in spelling, 98th in math, a couple of 97s and 96s for the grammar sections and even the practial reasoning section. One test battery stood out in particular, though: The Space Relations bar was like a little rotten stump in the midst of my graceful Amazon-esque trees. My score for that section put me in the 60-somethingth percentile. I was humiliated.

Fast forward to the other day: all of the insecurities and frustrations I experienced back in my youth came flooding back, as Marty and I endeavoured to build a lantern for the exciting Luminara Festival. When we first signed up as 'installation artists' for the event, we were picturing making a paper box of sorts, hanging it from a stick, and perhaps drawing a little symbol on one side. However, it turns out we're a lot more invested in the lantern building aspect of the show than we expected. Take, for instance, these photos:

Is it clear from these photos that the lantern we're building is over 6 feet tall?! And did you know that we're building this mammoth lantern from one of Marty's thumbnail sketches that measures around... oh... 2 inches tall?! Marty was all excited to get started and to turn his tiny brainchild into a giant bamboo frame. On the other hand, I was panicking. This would be the ultimate Space Relations test. And it, too, would be timed.

Our lantern has to be ready to light (and float!) by July 14th, though the festival itself takes place on the 21st. I'll keep posting photos of our progress as we get closer and closer to completion... if I don't implode from all of the stress that making a giant, irregularly-shaped box out of a little picture is creating for me. Deep breaths, Dana-- deep breaths.


wednesday L said...

Hey Llna-
Thanks for the memories of Mr.... B.
Not to get all AMAZING on you or anything, but did you know that I scored in the 100th percentile for the same space relations test two years later?
I rock the box, what can I say...

AND, I knew what muslin was, because I always dug sew-y shit. (I actually remember thinking, with glee, about how muslin is such a word of the ancients and there was NO WAY that eastern religion would have been brushed upon in such an old test, and that EVERYONE BUT ME would get that one wrong. KA-KA-KA-POW, YO!)

Wednesday L said...

PS- I performed very poorly on a couple of those tests, though. Grammar, I think. AND, if there would have been a 'physical fitness' component, I would have been effin' toast.

dana said...

Just like dad 'needing improvement' on skipping backwards for the Canadian Fitness Challenge. :)

PS: Curse your 100th percentile for Space Relations! You may rock the box, and you may have known what muslin was when you were 14, but are YOU building a giant lantern for a festival?? HUH- PUNK??!! (she wrestles sister to the ground, taking advantage of her 30th percentile in 'physical fitness testing') Take that!

Rose said...

Sorry to break into the sisterly love but your fine craft will float brilliantly. Just remember, your partner can balance you out where your graphed bars are only regular person rather than amazon height.

And you don't get to be good at everything! It just wouldn't be fair! Damn my physical fitness!

Robin said...

I don't know about those apptitude tests either. How helpful is it to score high on most everything and get the "you can do whatever you want to do" line? Argh. By the way, one of my potential careers was aerospace engineer - you can guess how I did on the spacial relations section of the test. ;)