The girls took their high school entrance exams today. The four hour PSAT test was one factor the school will use to decide placement options. The things that worried the girls the most wasn't the test itself. It was the answer sheet. Unlike all the other standardized tests they have taken over the years, the PSAT was done on a scantron form.
They had friends over last night to "study," although one might say that they were just hanging out and talking. At one point I handed them some copies and pencils. They stared at the paper, not understanding why I handed them a paper with a bunch of circles.
I explained that when they took the test they would be expected to fill in the dots to record their answers. They stared at me like I was crazy. I asked if they had ever used an answer sheet with the dots before. They said no.
When I was in school, all my standardized tests had scantron forms. I was an expert at filling in the dots correctly. We talked about how there were two things they needed to think about every time they answered a question. The first was to get the correct answer. The second was to fill in the dot completely.
The whole table sat with pencils in hand to practice filling in the dots. There were specific examples they had to follow so they would receive credit for their answers. The thing that annoyed the girls was that getting the right answer didn't matter if the dots were not filled in correctly.
They were still talking about filling in the dots after the test. The plus side of the scantron sheet was that they were focused on getting it right so it was a distraction from whether or not they came up with the correct answer. In fact, after the test, the girls tried to compare answers, but could hardly remember their responses. It turned out that the dots made it easy to move on from the test to other concerns, like their eventual class placements after they received their test scores. We won't have that information until January, so there is plenty of time to stress about something else they cannot control.