Growing up we tend to build up situations to the point they become much larger than they are. The idea of something becomes so overwhelming that we lose focus of the simplicity behind it. One such obstacle is the SAT Exam, a burden all high schoolers must face before going onto college. It has been drilled into our heads that this is “THE” test of all tests and will determine where our next path in life leads… not too intimidating. In Michael Arlen Davis’ documentary The Test and The Art of Thinking he exams the actual “usefulness” of such testing and if it really does make a difference in how we grade our youth.
The film is filled with multiple interviews from different individuals involved in the education field as well as prep study groups that aid children in the testing process. The film’s message is to shine a light on a topic not many would be familiar with and that is that these types of tests are not built to discover the student’s knowledge but rather how they think. If there was a constant throughout the film and one point we should all take away it is that these tests have major flaws and students need to recognize this is a beast of a different nature. As students, we all took tests under the impression that they were based on information we have learned overtime but standardized testing relies more on logic and quick problem solving. One of the biggest flaws in the system seems to be something that runs rampant in our society and that is greed. Numerous companies have cornered the tutoring market and it has proven to be a big cash industry with each promising to increase scores and some offering refunds if expectations are not met. I remember taking the SATs twice myself and the second time around I used a prep course that did eventually raise my scores but I cannot say I noticed any real impact it made in my life.
Davis’ film is a true eye opener for the viewer because with so many testimonies from top educational individuals it is hard to turn away from the fact that these tests are completely redundant. Our youth is being filtered through a broken system that promises to offer everyone a fair chance but in theory is relegated to who wrote the longest essay, facts withstanding as length is the true factor, and who could answer questions the fastest. One of the most poignant parts in the film is when a tutor tells a student the idea of “Black Magic”, a process of elimination that can provide an answer without even reading the question. Equally as important was watching another tutor by the name of Greg Hanlon. Hanlon is the complete opposite of what you would imagine a tutor to be but his methods have proven to be successful. His methods also do not rely on the materials covered in the test but rather how to break it down to where it becomes a game: do not overthink, trust your instincts, the faster you break “the code” the higher your score. I would implore any student to watch this simply to ease any anxiety they might be feeling about taking these tests. They have to realize these moments do not dictate their lives and like most obstacles there is a way around it and to succeed.
3.5 out of 5
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