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Which One Doesn't Belong?

I felt the car come to a halt and slowly unbuckled my seatbelt, stomach churning from the drive. My small hands slid open the door of our minivan, and I hopped out to where my dad was waiting. As he closed the door behind me, I looked around – we were standing in front of a small building that bore a sign which I read in an instant, identifying it as the Beaumont Center for Human Development. He took my hand in his, and we strode up to the door and inside. I could see a reception desk in the lobby, and let go of my father’s hand as a woman walked up to us. My dad had to do a lot of paperwork, and as he was filling it out, the lady tried to talk to me.

“What’s your name, honey?”

I looked up and met her eyes, olive green locking onto chocolate. The question was pointless; she knew the answer – I had seen her glance down at the heading on the paper before handing it to my dad. But it would be rude to remain silent.

“Mairen. It’s nice to meet you, Miss Katherine.”

She froze for an instant – she apparently thought I couldn’t read her name tag. “It’s nice to meet you, too.” I saw her bite her lip. “How old are you, Mairen?”

I glanced out of the corner of my eye at my dad, who was nearing the end of the paperwork. “Six.”

“That’s nice.”

“Yes.”

An awkward silence would have fallen had my dad not finished the paperwork. He handed it to Katherine, and she smiled at me. “Say goodbye to your dad for me, and we’ll go meet Dr. Billings.”

I was vaguely aware of a man behind the reception desk watching me, but I hugged my dad and walked back to Katherine, who led me down the hall to a door marked ‘Dr. Robin Billings.’ She pushed open the door, and I stepped into an office, where I saw a middle-aged man sitting behind a desk with a chair in front of it. I assumed the chair to be for me, and my suspicions were confirmed as he stood up and shook my hand.

“Hi, Mairen. I’m Dr. Billings. Why don’t you sit down?” He gestured to the chair. I stepped over and sunk down into it, my hands tucked under my legs. Dr. Billings shuffled through some papers on his desk, and I heard the barely audible click of Katherine shutting the door. “Do you know why you’re here?” He asked. I shook my head. “We’re going to do some puzzles today.”

I knew that that phrase was adult code for ‘I’m going to give you a test,’ but didn’t say anything. First, he gave me a book to read. It was a short story, and more challenging than I would have expected. It wasn’t hard to understand though, and after he asked me to pronounce a couple of words, he started to interrogate me about what happened in the book. I didn’t see the point in it – he had obviously read the book already, so why should I have to tell him what happened?

Next, he read me a couple of words and told me to write them down. I saw surprise flit across his face as he saw that I had spelled them all correctly – maybe it wasn’t normal to do so. Some of the words came from books I had read previously, and others I just spelled like I saw them in my head.

But this was just the beginning. After doing the reading tests, he took out a big packet, and started reading me the questions from it. He had a stopwatch on his desk, and I saw him time how long it took me to answer every question. Some of them asked me to choose the next picture in a pattern, or do logic puzzles. Others inquired which one in a list or a group of images didn’t belong. Most of the answers seemed obvious, but others were harder to figure out. A few were trying to trick me, but I noticed and avoided the traps before I fell into them.

I had to recreate patterns of colored symbols after they were flashed quickly on the computer screen; look at groups of scales with different combinations of objects on them and tell which object was heaviest; and do basic arithmetic – addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. The problems got more and more complicated as we got farther into the test. I remember Dr. Billings asking me a couple of times if I wanted to stop and take a break. I said no, because I wanted to get the whole thing over with as soon as possible. At lunchtime, I got to eat with my dad. I couldn’t tell him what was on the test, but I told him that it was going pretty well. After lunch, I went back into the office and I was given a math test that was beyond the arithmetic I had had to do beforehand. Some of the things I had never seen before, but I did my best to figure them out. After I finished the math test, Dr. Billings let me go home. I was happy because school wasn’t over yet, and I wouldn’t have to go for the rest of the afternoon. I went a couple more times to the office to see a different lady, who asked me a lot of questions, too – but they didn’t seem intellectual at all. We just talked to each other for a while, and then I went home again.
***
At the time, I understood that I was being tested and analyzed. What I didn’t know was what a huge impact it would have on my entire life. Sure, it seemed significant – I was missing school! But I didn’t realize how important it was until very recently. This year (I turned 13), I was allowed to see my IQ and intelligence test results. When I found them after hours of searching through boxes and shelves, it was like I was in a dream or a memory. I hadn’t been able to, or had any reason to, recall what happened on those few days when I was tested, but suddenly it all came back to me as if it had occurred the day before. I opened the manila envelope, and unclipped the thick packet of paper inside, looking at the business card that bore Dr. Billings’ name. In my mind, his face appeared. I saw the initial IQ score on the front, and was slightly disappointed. Only after I read the explanation below did my stomach return to its normal place. My score was in the very, very high range of the WISC-III IQ test, which has a ceiling at 160. I don’t remember how much time I spent laying on the floor, flipping through the pages with my mouth open. I saw top scores on every part of the exam, and after reading the description of each area, I could recall taking each part of the test. I found out that the harder math test I had taken was an end-of-2nd-grade advanced placement test, and that I had scored 100% on it – without ever having dealt with some of the concepts that were covered. My mind was reeling with all of the new information: my reading level at age 6 ranked at a 12-year-old’s, and my ability to sound out or spell foreign words was that of a 13 ½-year-old. I’m not even 13 ½ now! The thing that surprised me the most was the suggested reading list at the back of the packet. One of the books listed was The Odyssey, the version that we had read in English.
I e-mailed Dr. Billings to find out more about my results, and he gave me the rough equivalent of my IQ on the Stanford-Binet test. I’m not allowed to disclose my IQ, but it turns out that there are less than 2,000 people in the world who have my IQ or greater. This test was also instrumental in letting me skip a grade – even after my teacher recommended me, the school was skeptical about whether I would be ready or not.
This episode of testing really changed my life –as I’ve gotten older I’ve been able to put it into perspective. I can look back on a lot of things in life and think ‘That wasn’t as important as I thought it was,’ but looking back on this day that seemed insignificant at the time, I can see how much it really changed me.



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