The Biggest Test You Should Prep For Isn't the SAT

Updated: Mar 16, 2019

We talk a lot about tests at Acumen, and as a mom I’ve been living tests for y-e-a-r-s: entrance exams, achievement tests, mid-terms, finals, SOLs, PSATs, SATs, ACTs, IBs to name a few. Each is valuable in its own way, but they are not the end all be all, and they do not define any of us.

Helpful on the path toward college, scholarships, and internships, they can't predict the big stuff like happiness, health, fulfillment or emotional intelligence. They can’t tell us what type of friend someone will be, or how they’ll interact with those around them. That test is so much bigger and more important.

YEAH ABOUT THE TEST...the test will measure whether you are an informed, engaged, and productive citizen of the world, and it will take place in schools and bars and hospitals and dorm rooms and in places of worship. You will be tested on first dates, in job interviews, while watching football, and while scrolling through your [social media] feed. The test will judge your ability to think about things other than celebrity marriages, whether you’ll be easily persuaded by empty political rhetoric, and whether you’ll be able to place your life and your community in a broader context. The test will last your entire life, and it will be comprised of the millions of decisions that, when taken together, will make your life yours. And everything, everything, will be on it....I know, right?" ~John Green

And a resounding “I know right?” from me and parents everywhere.

Life. How in the actual you-know-what do we prepare our kids for it? How do we raise quality humans? It’s the biggest gauntlet ever thrown.

The salutatorian of my son’s class (and daughter of his favorite teacher) gave a killer graduation speech about that. She was mid speech touching on all the usual themes, when she shook her head, put her notes down and said:

“forget all that stuff I just said. There’s really only one thing you need to do in life. Just one thing. In the words of my mother, ‘do NOT grow up to be an asshole’. That’s it. That’s literally the only thing you need to do. And it’s so much harder than you think.”

The place erupted.

An older couple beside me visibly jumped.

Older gentleman: “What did she just say? Did she say @sshole?”

His wife: “No! She couldn’t have! I think she said: Grow up and pursue your goals.”

Older gentleman: “Oh, that makes sense, but she’s right about the @sshole thing too.”

And she is right. You can earn a perfect score on the SAT and still be rude. Or lazy. Cruel, bad at collaborating, mean to animals, close-minded or a have a host of other characteristics that equate to becoming a subpar human. There are so many things more important than a perfect score. Like everything listed here:

Those are the things that lead to competent adulting and quality living.

If you have a child who is not a ‘good test taker’, please remember all the other things they are. And then remind them. Repeatedly. Some of our kids have been taking tests and seeing scores that chip away at their psyches for years. Don’t let that happen. People who don’t do well on standardized tests have non-standardized minds not sub-standard ones. And non-standardized minds are often the ones that create ideas and change the world.

Know one who lives and learns with dyslexia? Show them this list: Spielberg, Picasso, Lennon, Kennedy, Washington, Da Vinci, Disney, Einstein. And in honor of National Women's Day show them this less commonly known list too: Erin Brockovich, Cher, Agatha Christie, Octavia Spencer, Jennifer Aniston, Ann Bancroft (arctic explorer), Jessica Watson (youngest to sail solo around the world), Florence Welch (of Florence + the Machine), Prof. Elizabeth Blackburn (Nobel prize winner) and then tell them chances are they’re going to be famous.