Created By: robert on March 5, 2010


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When the protagonists know they're being tested, but the purpose of the test isn't what they think it is. Subtrope of False Crucible.

This covers the second bunch of False Crucible miscellaneous examples. Unlike secret tests, the protagonist does know they're being tested. Star Trek's Kobayashi Maru is an example, since there the hidden purpose was to test how trainees would deal with an unwinnable situation, but the 'The Kobayashi Maru' trope isn't. That trope covers all cases where the protagonists know it's a test but the audience doesn't, whether or not the test has an hidden purpose.

Needs a better name.

Discounting one in the wrong place, the examples we've got are:

  • Robert A. Heinlein's Farmer in the Sky. William Lermer wants to emigrate to Ganymede, one of Jupiter's moons. When he goes in to talk to a psychiatrist for a psych test, two clerks harass and insult him, but he manages to keep calm. He later finds out that the clerks were psychometricians and there were a camera and microphone on him recording what happened. He was being tested to see if he could keep his temper when provoked.
    • Exactly the same thing happens to the protagonist of John Scalzi's Old Man's War as he "waits" for his military enlistment psych exam.
  • The Westing Game. Heirs to a dead man's fortune think that they're supposed to find out who killed him. They're actually supposed to find out that he isn't actually dead, it was all a trick.
  • Murder, She Wrote episode "Test of Wills". Jessica Fletcher is called in by a wealthy man to find out which of his heirs is trying to kill him. When he suddenly dies, she tries to discover the murderer. In the end it turns out that the man only pretended to die, in order to smoke out the killer.
  • The agents in Men in Black do this with the candidates for membership ("the best of the best of the best, SIR!"). They give out a multiple-choice test, but the purpose is to see whether anyone will noisily drag the table in the middle of the room over to his chair instead of struggling to fill it out on no hard surface, and they give a fake marksmanship test in which the goal is not to shoot the most alien monsters, but to figure out that the real threat is the innocent-looking little girl.
  • Naruto loves doing this.
    • Hatake Kakashi sets up a test where three fresh ninja recruits have to steal bells from him... which is totally impossible. He tells them to skip breakfast so they'll be hungry during the test and then busts one of them trying to sneak food. The game is actually to see whether they will break the rules and feed their starving team mate since ninja who fail missions are trash, but ninja who don't look out for eachother are "lower than that!"
    • The first stage of the Chuunin Exam is just finding the room for it by seeing through an illusion technique. Then there's a paper test so hard nobody (except Haruno Sakura) can get even one question right... its a test to see how well you can cheat. The final question is given at the end with the condition that once you've heard the question, if you get it wrong you instantly fail and can never take the exam again, or you can quit and try again next year. There is no question, it's just a test to see if you'll gamble your future on the mission.
    • During a Filler episode, its revealed that the dreaded "final question" in the chuunin exam one year was subtly different. In this version, if you get the question wrong, you're still fine but your team mates are stuck as genin forever. Agreeing to continue means you fail. Apparently, ninja should be willing to gamble with their own futures, but not their team mates'.
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