They call this a test, but it's not just a test; it's THE test. It's the one thing that will judge every aspect of your character. It will tell your limits, your future, your fate, all spelled out in little black dots of number two pencil on a Scantron sheet. It's the Achievement Test That Will Decide Your Destiny
In fiction (and in real life) Standardized Exams are Serious Business
. Students will do anything to succeed. They might go to Cram School
at the urging of their well-intentioned Education Mama
. They might plot an elaborate scheme to cheat, but those who do likely Can't Get Away with Nuthin'
. They might undergo stress to the point of doing things they'd never realize they'd do
. And if you get saddled with a less-than-perfect
score? Your only options are a job at the local Burger Fool
Even the smartest kids in school
might blanch at the thought of taking this test. There may be protests everywhere condemning how unfair it is and how a mere test score doesn't indicate everything about a person's character. The bane of many a scholar's existence. Most cases of this may use the Real Life SAT test, which many colleges have a minimum cutoff score to determine which students they will accept, though fictional and non-college-based exams can also apply.
Compare the Final Exam Finale
, and the Final Exam Boss
. Contrast the Inept Aptitude Test
, which will tell you that working at the Burger Fool
would be your favorite career option, not your only one. Note that the Achievement Test of Destiny need not be a standardized exam, however in American school systems such is normally the case.
Anime and Manga
- Love Hina has early chapters about the main characters trying to get into Tokyo University (and failing, for the most part). Once they make it, the plotlines become much more diverse.
- The Perfect Score is about several teenagers who attempt to steal the answers to their upcoming SAT test, believing they'll be doomed if they fail.
- Jack Blank features a PMAP: the Potential Mapping Test, which Ross Calhoun declares beyond reproach as it shows everything worthwhile about a child and decides their futures. Jack is less than excited when his test score amounts to "Toilet Brush Cleaner". Later on, Jonas Smart forces Jack and his other classmates in his superhero training program to take a 4-hour comprehensive, custom-made Total Personality Test that could single-handedly psychoanalyze anyone and had questions on every possible subject, complete with multiple rude questions implying Jack to be allied with the Rüstov. Smart is shocked when Jack's test comes back with the result "NEEDS MORE INPUT" and blames Jack for messing with the form.
- Harry Potter has two such exams in the Hogwarts curriculum: the Ordinary Wizarding Levels (OWL) and the Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Test (NEWT). OWL determines whether or not one is qualified to continue an education in a given subject at the NEWT level, and NEWT is there to prove full competency in that subject. Different forms of cheating (including very lethal decoys such as doxy droppings) and self-correcting quills are passed around and banned for these tests. Mrs. Weasley gets very upset that her sons Fred and George got dismal OWL scores and dropped out before completing the NEWT, and Harry's also concerned because his chosen career path requires a NEWT in potions and Professor Snape won't accept any NEWT students who didn't get anything less than top marks on the OWL.
- An episode of Full House was about DJ freaking out about her SATs. The tester is her crabby neighbor, she gets every question wrong, she doesn't even get points for her name because "initials don't count", the only college she can get into Clown College, and even her Dumb Is Good boyfriend leaves her over the results. Subverted in the end. It was All Just a Dream and the actual test wasn't that big a deal.
- On Suits Rachel's dream of going to Harvard Law School are derailed by the fact that she has a Heroic BSOD every time she tries to take the LSATs. In contrast, Mike's Photographic Memory allows him to get perfect scores on the test and his future as a lawyer was derailed by a comparatively insignificant exam that he aced. He sold the answers to that exam to another student and was expelled from college as a result. As the series begins Mike is making money taking the LSATs on behalf of students who cannot get into law school without cheating and Rachel is getting desperate enough to consider hiring him.
- Eric on Boy Meets World was so worried about failing his SATs that he willingly made himself an indentured servant to his neighbor and teacher Mr. Feeny so Feeny would tell him the secrets to acing it. Feeny just strings him along, and reveals at the end that Eric should just get a good night's sleep and a good breakfast before taking it. Eric then says he no longer has to be Feeny's slave anymore, but Feeny adds that he only told two of the three secrets.
- Malcom In The Middle warned his little brother Dewey about acing a particular achievement test. Dewey had the same potential to be classified as a genius as Malcom, but Malcom didn't want Dewey to be cursed with the same fate of being a socially-outcast Krelboyne if he aced. Instead, he offered that their much dumber brother Reese take the test for Dewey, which landed Dewey in a class for children they treated as mentally retarded.
- All Grown Up! featured a 5th grade standardized exam that was considered so horrible that even the teacher declared it scarred him for life. When the kids grill their older friend Chuckie, he confirms it was one of the worst experiences of his life. Phil believes that if he cracks under pressure, he'll become a mime. The stress from the test causes Tommy to steal items from all around the neighborhood in his sleep, and when police officers catch him, they sigh and sympathetically release him knowing he's another victim of the test.
- Batman Beyond featured an episode where the cast had taken the GAT. When a student learns he only got 2397 out of 2400 and that someone else had attained a perfect score, he gets so upset that he is willing to delete all the test records to even the score. Having a disappointed Education Mama chastising him for not having the highest score didn't help.
- Danny Phantom used the Career Aptitude Test as the catalyst for the special The Ultimate Enemy. Mr Lancer says the CAT is the most important test anyone will ever take and that it will determine a student's entire future. Danny is especially stressed because his older sister got the highest grade ever, and his Bumbling Dad claimed he failed "and didn't turn out to be a cat". Sam and Tucker aren't worried, but Danny is, so when ghostly intervention puts the answers to the test in his hands, he is very tempted to cheat, only to find that cheating is a Butterfly of Doom that would indeed destroy his future in a way he didn't expect.
- An earlier episode, Fanning The Flames, played this for laughs. Casper High invests in new Cramtastic equipment to prepare everyone for an upcoming standardized test. Because Ember's concert is that day, everyone has Ember on the mind and doesn't focus on studying. However, Sam and Danny forced their friend Tucker into the Cramtastic to get Ember off his mind earlier in the episode, and the yolk was on their face when they all failed and had to stay after school while Tucker got the perfect score and was excused.
- Fillmore! featured the SATTY 9 test. The resident genius Ingrid Third was greatly expected to succeed, and she was confident, but she didn't like taking the test because she knew there were kids who weren't great test takers but had plenty of other great qualities that couldn't be judged by a test. There were protesters trying to boycott the test. The plot of this episode started when all the answer sheets to the test were stolen, and either Ingrid and Fillmore had to find them or everyone would have to take the test over again because they had to be sent to the government to be graded.
- In the Mission Hill episode "Kevin Vs. the SAT", Kevin becomes obsessed with cracking the "code" of standardized tests to guarantee a perfect score and thus ensure admission to a top-ranked college (the alternative suggestion of extracurricular activities doesn't go over so well with him and his friends).
- A lot of people feel this way when they have to gear up for any standardized test. The SAT, ACT, PMAT, MCAT, you name it. The score one earns on this test is an indicator that determines whether or not a student can attend a college or career program of their choice.
- Medieval China had an extensive meritocratic bureaucracy. In order to get a comfortable high-class position in the bureaucracy, one had to take an extremely long and time-consuming set of exams, set inside special isolation domiciles while they took them.