High Aptitude

“You need to think about where you want to go.”

“I want to be an artist.”

“Pshaw. We’re going up to Denver for you to take an aptitude test at the VA.”


“They won’t pay for your college if you aren’t going in a direction that makes sense according to their test.”

“What? Those tests are bogus.” (Actually they are not but at 18 I knew more than anyone else had ever known anywhere at any time.)

Drive, drive, drive. Park. Go in. Sit down. Take multiple choice “test”. Wait for scores. Scores come out. Lowest, office work and food service. Highest, forest ranger. Semi-high — in order — creative work, news reporter, writer, lawyer, newscaster, teacher.

“Miss Kennedy,” says the counselor, “you have a lot of possibilities. You need to find the right direction. The VA will pay for any of these majors.” The list says “Journalism, English, education.”

Nowhere does it say Forest Ranger.

Over the years I sent a lot of students to get that vey same aptitude test — the Strong Interest Inventory. I usually sent them when they confided to me they didn’t want to major in business or engineering or something that their parents had set them on. Sometimes they were REALLY in the wrong major. Sometimes they needed confirmation they were in the right major. Sometimes they said the test was like a horoscope. For a while I argued with them, then I just said, “You’re right. You fill in hundreds of questions about what you like and do not like in order to get your zodiac sign.”

But what no one, no counselor, aptitude test, mom or dad can tell anyone is what lies ahead in life, where the turning points are, or that life is a lot more than whatever your job turns out to be. The best aptitude to have is one for patience combined with a sense of humor. There’s no test for that, as far as I know, other than life itself.


24 thoughts on “High Aptitude

  1. I took an aptitude test in high school. I don’t know which one. It was useless. I indicated I could do well in almost any field of endeavor. I thought the purpose was to narrow the selection a bit.

      • The test asked a range of problem-solving questions from various field of endeavor. To resolve them you had to know the fundamentals of the area and then use logic to reach a conclusion. Ever hear of such a thing?

        “Fred, you can do anything you want!” was not a useful result.

        • That’s not an aptitude test. How weird. But even when the result was “useful” as in my case, it doesn’t mean that much. It’s just a guide, a direction. I think most of the time with my students the Strong Interest Inventory (not the test you took) confirmed their knowledge of themselves. That’s pretty useful to an 18 year old.

  2. I think you are absolutely right…patience, humour and I’d add kindness, life is more than a job!

    • Yeah, kindness. I agree. Life is a LOT more than a job. It was difficult persuading my students that a lot of what they were learning would be useful in LIFE. They were very career focused… But that makes sense. They were products of a system that stressed the college admission, the degree, the career. I am sure they’ve all found out by now. 🙂

  3. My brother took that test and they said he SHOULD be a forest ranger. Unfortunately, my parents weren’t prepared for a son who wanted to be a forest ranger. He had to be a professional, but oddly, that never happened.

    I think my test screamed ENGLISH, writer, ENGLISH, writer. So I became a music major. Because I really liked my piano teacher. I too knew absolutely everything. These days, I don’t know anything.

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