All over the country, students apply for admissions into competitive schools through a myriad of methods -- cognitive exams, achievement exams, IQ exams, and even interviews. While many of these tests have basic components in common, such as pencils, desks, or bubble sheets, they also have one profound flaw: tester variability!
Despite training and handbooks that outline the structure for administering exams, proctor’s personalities can still peek through the rules and alter the testing environment--either consciously or subconsciously. The subjectivity of proctor personalities extends especially to a specific standardized exam that is administered to thousands of children each year. In the exam that children take for admissions into New York City Gifted & Talented programs, a child could work with a person who was nice enough to repeat an aural question, even though the guidelines clearly state the proctor will NOT repeat questions. Conversely, proctors administer multiple exams per day to four and five year olds, and a proctor could easily be at their wit’s end by the end of the day and rush through reading the questions. Neither case reflects the nature of the exam and its intended administration, and neither case will yield accurate results for your child.
Parents regularly voice concerns about the possibility of their children working with undesirable proctors on test day, and the most common concerns surround the Stanford-Binet exam. The Stanford-Binet, an IQ exam, is one such instance where a qualified psychologist--and not a DOE teacher--is required to administer the exam. While the basic constructs that the examiner must follow are no doubt paired with a strong background in psychology, the psychologist very well might not have the ideal temperament for working with a four year old in New York City admissions contexts. Being that the Stanford-Binet is such a verbal exam, pairing a young child with someone they are not comfortable with, or with someone who does not try to appropriately engage children, will absolutely impact final scores.
Masters graduate and tutor, Doris Chen, took a moment to speak on the matter, stating, “Parents should be aware that every person or tester is different. You have to be prepared and expect that your child might get a strict or a lenient tester. It is simply the luck of the draw in most cases. The question is whether or not to prepare your student for both scenarios or jump to an appeal after the fact.”
Families should teach their child to be as versatile as possible. This means to help your child become comfortable working with adults both male and female, friendly and gruff. However, NEVER hesitate to make an appeal for an exam that you think was unjustly administered, especially with young children.
Luckily, with some tests, parents are given a list of proctors to choose from before actually scheduling the exam. Below are 5 tips for choosing the right test administrator for those parents who are lucky enough to have the option!
1. Choose someone who most resembles someone your child is comfortable with or knows well. When children feel safe, they perform better. For example, if a tester resembles your child’s nanny, that tester might be a good choice.
2. Don’t do this alone. Ask other parents or institutions for advice. In many cases, another family in your friend group has gone through the same process. Perhaps they had experience with a fantastic tester. Many test preparation companies also have recommendations or data to share. Ask, ask, ask!
3. Sometimes, the veteran proctor is not always the best. Just because a person has many years of testing experience, that does not mean they are the most qualified to handle the most recent test situations. Do not just select a proctor because they appear to be the most qualified or distinguished. Personality matters just as much as credentials!
4. Pick a good time of the day. Some students are morning people. Consider an earlier time slot for your child to take the test if they are usually more alert in the morning. Don’t schedule a test in the middle of a child’s regularly scheduled naptime. Use common sense with this one and go with a child’s natural daily flow!
5. Follow up. Always ask your child how the test went afterwards. Ask for details about how they did and felt so if anything seems off, you can investigate to ensure that all fair measures were taken for your child. If you need to, and if possible, file an appeal ASAP to request a retest, citing inappropriate testing conditions.