The first time I took a college placement test was in December of 2015 at Bristol Community College. The test ultimately determines where students place in specific courses, such as arithmetic, reading, writing, and algebra. After months of preparation and anxiety, the pressure was on. Throughout my middle school years, I was a strong student, always on the honor roll. I never had a GPA below 3.0. I was smart, and I knew it. That is, until I got the results of my college placement test.
Although the test was challenging, covering those four specific subjects of reading, writing, arithmetic, and algebra, I was sure I had passed every part. To my surprise, I did pass every part – except writing. “Writing! Yeah right! How did I manage to fail writing, and by half a point, no less?” I thought to myself in disbelief. Seeing my test results brought tears to my eyes. I honestly could not believe it. I had worked way too hard to score below the 3-point scale. Not to mention, scoring a half-point below it. I thought it was absurd. To make matters worse, most of my classmates from high school also took the test, and to my surprise again heard that they all passed, including some who were barely passing high school English. What an embarrassment I thought. How could I have failed, and they had passed that test? I was so much better at writing than they were, or at least I thought I was because I always got A’s on my English papers. What did I do wrong that made me fail, or in other words, what did I miss on the test that they got right and I got wrong?
Until that time, I loved writing just as much as I loved math. It was one of my strengths. I was good at it, and I enjoyed it. If anything, I thought I might fail algebra. How could I have screwed up writing? I surely spelled every word correctly, used good grammar, and even used big words in the proper context. How could I have failed? This was definitely a debby-downer because I always knew I was a good writer and so did everyone else.
Finally, I got over it and decided it was no big deal. Surely, I would pass the next time. In my honors high school English class, I worked diligently, passing with A’s. By the time I graduated high school, I knew I was ready for college and ready to conquer that writing test. Well, guess what? I failed the test again, again with only 2.5 of the 3 points needed to pass. That time I did cry, and even went to my advisor, Mr. Sanchez, and asked, “How can I get A’s in all my English classes but fail the writing part of the college placement test twice?”
He could not answer my question. Even my friends and classmates were confused. I felt like a failure. I had disappointed my family and seriously let myself down. Worst of all, I still could not figure out what I was doing wrong.
I decided to quit trying so hard. Apparently – I told myself – the people grading the tests did not have the slightest clue about what constituted good writing was. I continued to excel in class and pass the test on the third try. But I never again felt the same love of reading and writing.
This experience showed me just how differently my writing could be judged by various readers. Obviously, all my English teachers and many others enjoyed or at least appreciated my writing. A poem I wrote was published online once. I must have been a pretty good writer. Unfortunately, the graders for the college placement test did not feel the same, and when students fail the test, the state of Massachusetts did not offer any explanation.
After I failed the test the first time, I began to hate writing, and I started to doubt myself. I doubted my ability and the ideas I wrote about. Failing the second time made things worse, so perhaps to protect myself from my doubts, I stopped taking English seriously. Perhaps because of that lack of seriousness, I earned a D in the English 101 class at Bristol Community College, and was forced to retake it when I transferred to Dean College. I wish I knew why I failed that test, because then I might have written what was expected on the second try, maintained my enthusiasm for writing, and continued to do well. Then again, this has given me the opportunity to prove to everyone what kind of writer I am.