Snapshot Testing

There are several ways we measure ourselves – tools that rank, categorize, define our rank and file. Assessments can measure intelligence, ability, achievement, even personality, psychological status, values and the chemicals currently in your body. Most of us have taken most of these types of tests – they now accompany job applications, are incorporated into public school education and are fences to hurdle before we can attend a certain program or achieve a particular degree or position. Simply: society chooses to place the future of its citizens on their successful testing ability.

What if testing isn’t easy for you? What if you’re one of the 3,800,000,000 or so people who struggle with severe test anxiety? There are tips that can help: that’s not really where I’m going with this though… more, I’m questioning the validity of measuring people with the distancing effect of assessment.

Consider the job interview: typically, one fills out an application, then logs in, and completes some version of the Holland codes or the Myers-Briggs and then, a timed version of the CCAT or the Wonderlic . Only then does the applicant sit down with the potential employer.

Human resources departments might argue that the information gained from these tests is invaluable: high percentages of their most successful employees have been assessed, and if a potential employee matches that profile, they are likely to also be a successful employee.

Schools consider assessment in much the same way: in Texas, the STAAR is deemed to be the penultimate measure of how each student is doing academically. A school is ranked on these results, students are allowed to continue on or must re-test or attend remedial courses based solely on these results.

Again: if you’re one of those 18-20 percent of people who freezes on tests, what recourse do you have?

I don’t believe we are the numbers and letters generated from our testing results. I argue that those results are only a polaroid of who we are in that moment, and in most cases, under different circumstances, we might test very differently. (Test validity addresses this, I’m not questioning the construct, merely pushing back at its purported strength in some cases.) Who we are - our holistic selves – cannot be measured in a single snapshot.

So this is a bit of a call-out: to those of us who are in a position to hire, to promote or to turn down – please consider the possibility the testee is one of roughly one in five people who may not have done well in testing but is an amazing person who knows the material, fits the personality profile or has a particular intelligence. David Boyle writes far more eloquently than myself on this subject: “Because number-crunching brings a kind of blindness with it. When we measure life, we reduce it.” Consider the person, not the ENTP – 118 – 2156 – RAS etc. Sit down with your testee: talk with them, see if they ‘feel’ right, have ideas and interests that gel with the company mission statements. Ask yourself – did this student just have a rough day? What else is going on here? At the simplest level: I’d ask that you see the human, not the metrics.


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