So on Saturday I took the SAT, all 4 hours of it: another supposedly fun thing I'll never do again!
Over on College Confidential there are, currently, 65 pages of my fellow test-takers debriefing each other re: the Critical Reading passages.
How is management different from handling? jpegslayer wants to know. I don't recall management being a choice on the Ella Baker passage,* but I do recall, dimly, selecting handling.
Also, there's a protracted debate over vehement vs caustic and emphatic vs disparaging. I have no memory of vehement vs caustic appearing anywhere on the test (apparently I was in a trance for parts of it), and I chose emphatic over disparaging.
People thought the Fleece passage was HARRRRDD (Akil found it here), which it was. Hard and odd...pretty much hard because it was odd. Odd and truncated, which made the thing odder still.
Question: was Fleece urbane or eccentric?
Answer: he was eccentric. I say he was paranoid, too, but the College Board and I may not see eye to eye on that one.
As to the rest of the test, C. and I both had math calamities, sad to say. C. choked on the one hard section of the three: got stuck on an early problem, lost track of time, and ran out the clock without even having read 5 of the problems, let alone tried to answer them. Classic, and so frustrating.
My own difficulties were self-inflicted.
I started down the path to ruin on Tuesday, when Debbie told me about the math frac function on the TI-83: PWN says you have to have it! Well, if PWN says you have to have it, then you have to have it because PWN knows everything about the SAT. (Really. He does.)
Trouble was: I didn't have it. A TI-83, that is. I have a lowly TI-36 I've been using for years and know so well I can practically touch-type the thing.
So I called Ed at NYU and asked him to pick me up a TI-83 on the way home. He said he would, but for some reason or other he didn't, which meant one less day to get up to speed on the TI-83 assuming he managed to get one on Wednesday.
He did, but it was sealed inside one of those monster pressure-sealed jobs that are impossible to open, and I didn't get around to dealing with it 'til the next night - Thursday - when the plastic proved so tough I actually cut myself with the scissors I was trying to jam through the packaging. In hindsight, that was a sign.
By the time the TI-83 was finally liberated from its packing and I had staunched the bleeding, it was 8:30 or so, and I was in no mood. At which point it emerged that C. didn't know anything about the math frac button(s) and couldn't show me how to use them.....so Debbie stopped over on the way home from her daughter's back to school night and spent 10 minutes explaining the thing.
That left one day - Friday - to practice.
In my defense, I did try reminding myself that one day of practice on a calculator with a different keyboard, different functions, and different locations for the same old functions (different notations, too) was not going to overwrite 5 years of practice with my trusty TI-83: I know this! I am a science writer, for god's sake! I write stuff about the brain! Stuff about the brain and learning and memory!
But I just kept thinking: math frac. Got to, got to, got to have math frac.
Long story short, I got to the test, took the first math section, the hardest of the three (well, four in my case since my experimental section was also math) and stumbled and tripped over one problem after another when I couldn't remember where the Enter key was (or even that there was an Enter key), or which side the Power key was on, or how you do square roots on the TI-83 (hit the 2nd key; square root key is on the left, not the right) or exponents (use parentheses), etc., etc., etc. And since working memory can hold only 3 or 4 things at a time, plus or minus two, and "where's the Enter button?" counts as one (at least), I'd have to forget some key part of the problem I was trying to solve in order to clear enough mental space to remember how to work the calculator, so then I'd have to re-read the problem to re-remember whatever I was remembering before I had to forget that to remember the calculator, and then when I was done re-reading and re-remembering the problem, I might discover I had now re-forgotten how to work the damn calculator, which meant I would have to re-forget the problem to clear space to re-re-remember the workings of the TI-83 ----- aaaaaauuuugggh! Stuck in an infinite forgetting and remembering loop! Help! Help!
I switched back to my old calculator for the other three sections, and things went much better.
Later, hearing the story, Ed said, "I was afraid of that."
* The Ella Baker passage made my eyes bleed.