Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Test

This past weekend, I took on one of the longest examinations in my life. I'm not sure how to I can do the trying experience justice with just a few sentences, so I guess I will tell it as it is.

I came home from work on Thursday early evening, ready to scan my PE review course homework and submit it online to receive credit. I quickly looked through it, only to realize that I was missing the economics section. Crap. Since my father and I were planning to leave soon that evening to stay at a hotel conveniently next door to the testing site, there wasn't a moment to lose. Luckily, the problems were few and the subject matter wasn't that difficult, so I worked as fast as I could and did the majority of them to get that check-mark. An hour an a half later, I tossed my pencil aside and went to scan all eleven assignments, but then my scanner started acting dumb on me by scanning only parts of the documents at a time. The only way I knew how to solve such a problem was to continually rescan the defective ones until it picked up the entire document. Another hour and a half passed and finally(!!) all PDFs were uploaded to the course website. I rushed to shower and pack some clothes, toiletries, and reference materials that I was allowed to use at the exam. No traffic on the way there, and we arrived in Pomona in a half-hour's time. Checked into the Sheraton, where they gave us a 50% discount for being City employees (slick deal!!). We settled down and unpacked in our quite comfortable room until it was time to get some shut-eye.

Woke up Friday around 6:15 am to eat some breakfast and get dressed. Afterwards, I checked to make sure I had my admissions ticket, calculator, and reference materials all set. After putting on shoes, Dad and I sat down to share and pray for a few minutes before heading out the door. It was a chilly morning as we waited outside with hundreds (maybe even thousands) of other engineers. There were a whole range of ages, the youngest being in their early twenties to the oldest bring old enough to be my grandparents. Some brought simple messenger bags/backpacks to hold their materials while others brought in boxes and even carts to hold their binders and textbooks from their educational past. Some people had tense stares while others were doing what they can to relax, usually by talking with their co-workers or friends. There was even one guy who was juggling colored exercise balls on the side. Doors opened at 7:30 am and the elderly proctors began going over the long-winded directions and rules for the exam. Morning section of 40 questions was passed out and we got to work. Conceptual problems were generally a breeze and the problems that required calculations weren't too time-consuming. I got stuck with a couple of them, but it certainly helped to have a broad understanding of each subject (as opposed to deep-&-dirty theoretical understanding) so to approach most of the problems with a good idea of what's going on. Just kept going at it until time was called four hours later. The tests were slowly collected, and the entire room exited for an hour break, whether to stretch, get lunch, throw up, or whatever. Walked back to the hotel room next door and sat down to eat a turkey club sandwich and drink orange juice that Dad brought for me. We talked a bit about the test, but mainly tried to take it easy. The hour passed quickly and I went back in for the second part. I chose Water Resources as my depth module, since its content didn't touch upon structural concepts (my weakest area, since I had an environmental and water resources emphases in college and grad school, respectively). A bit more challenging with some uncertainties about biological and chemical processes calculations. Conceptual portions weren't much harder than the morning ones, but the formulas were longer and had variables that needed separate calculations. At about halfway through, I was slowly feeling the fatigue of the day catching on, and I found the certain urge to just get out and away to anywhere else but here. Some people were finishing early and starting to leave, but I could tell by their faces and exits that several of them weren't sure of their performance and probably more-or-less gave up. I hung in there and struggled with the last handful of questions before time was called and we all filed the heck out of there. Went back to the hotel room to eat some fruit with Dad and talk about the exam. The subject began to wear itself out to other discussion topics as we rested and I switched out that day's exam materials to the next day's topics. We got some dinner together and eventually we called it a night and tried to get some good sleep.

Woke up Saturday around 7:15am with the same routine: breakfast, dress, double-checking, and praying. Headed back to the Fairplex around 8:30 only to find an overflow of people for the seismic test section and a good portion of the group got moved to an alternate building. Apparently, the second day's exams have much lower passing rates and many engineers were returning to try again. The relocation wasn't a big deal to me except it took longer for the proctors to set up and hand out the tests. A half-hour to 45 minutes later, we opened the test booklets to get back to work. For the first half of the test, it was pretty simple - just applying the right equations with the given conditions or just finding methods which would solve seismic problems. But the second part was quite a different story - more complicated problems took almost double the time allowed and I was forced to stop and move on with some problems. I reached the end with about an hour to spare and backtracked to put whatever I could into those long winded problems before time was called. Two-and-a-half hours wasn't quite long enough for the 47 questions, and a good 15 or 20 minutes would help me feel more sure with my answer choices. Nonetheless, I filled in where I knew and could make an educated guess, finishing the test just as time was called. Same lunch routine followed: made way back to room, ate a good sandwich, talked a bit with Dad. Since it was Saturday, there was college football all over the channels, but Cal was playing later that night. Saw glimpses of the Big 10 teams in action, and still hold to my thoughts that they got NOTHING on the Pac-10 teams. Lunch went down just as fast and I walked back down to the site to tackle the last 2.5 hours of my 13 hour examination. Engineering surveying concepts were not too difficult but what really got to me is matching my calculated answers with the multiple-choice answers on the test. Boo. I would try again and soon found reworking the problems became more of a problem than the actual problems themselves. The fatigue of the past day and a half was beginning to rear its ugly head again halfway through and my upper body was tiring. And time always seemed to work against me. But I pressed on the best I could to the last minutes and sighed a relief when time was called for the final instance. I packed up my stuff and headed out to the truck where my Dad was waiting with a smile. He started the engine and we went home where Mom and Lilly (and our two cats and dog) were waiting for me.

Although I am unsure of my test results (I won't know for another 13 weeks!) and facing the possibility of returning in April to retake one part of the test, I am grateful for finishing and just being done for now. I am really thankful for my father, a PE himself, who accompanied me from start to finish and acted as my cutman (in every sense of the term) in between rounds of testing. To the rest of my family for their support as well as my community of believers both in NorCal and SoCal, whose concern and encouragements were incredible. Your prayers, phone calls, Facebook wall postings, and text messages were much appreciated and uplifting to me. =) It's feels great to be free, and to now focus more of my energies and time into the goals I have in mind and the people that I love.

God is good. And so is some good candy.



mrtsax said...

dang that's pretty crazy hehe :)

Grrrrrrebecca said...

wow. just wow. *brain melts*

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