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Taking Tests

If you’re a product of the American education system (or just about any education system in the world) you took tests while you were in school. And, the scores you managed on those tests determined in a large part what your GPA (Grade Point Average) was, and, at the end of a semester, quarter, or academic year, you got your number….the one that showed how well, or how poor you were at taking tests. Oh, sure, there were other things that you accomplished that contributed to that number. Homework assignments that you completed successfully, for example, often contributed a given percentage to your number. Or, in some cases, there were other classroom assignments, or even ‘extra credit’ things that you could do in order to bring your number up high enough so you wouldn’t wind up having to repeat an entire grade because your test scores wouldn’t be good enough on their own to allow you to move on the next grade.

Ah, yes, tests…..when it comes to tests and test-taking, people fall into one of two categories: Either they are good at taking tests, or they’re not. There’s just not a lot of middle ground here.

The way an academic system works when it comes to tests, is that we’re supposed to gather as much information about the test as possible. And then we’re supposed to study that information (cram for an exam), try to memorize as much as possible, and then, on the day of the test, hopefully regurgitate as much as much of the information we gathered and crammed as possible, and answer  a majority of the questions correctly so we’ll get a passing score. And, the kicker here is that once you’ve studied, crammed and regurgitated, that particular test is history and it’s time to move on to the next test.

No wonder some people don’t like to take tests.

When it comes to test-taking, people who handle it well are usually of one of two learning styles. Either they are dominantly visual or auditory learners, meaning they can learn a lot just by seeing, or by listening carefully, or by employing those two skills in combination. People who don’t handle test-taking well are often of a different learning style altogether. They’re considered to be kinesthetic learners, which means their dominant information processing characteristic that allows them to learn and figure things out is ‘feeling-based’….touching….holding…hands-on stuff. People who are visually or auditorially dominant tend to gravitate toward academic, business, or other related professions. People who are kinesthetic tend to wind up in professions where they “work with their hands”.

HVACR technicians “work with their hands”….but they also work with their head, which is what makes them a technician, and technicians simply have to face the fact that testing and certification is (and should be) part of their professional life. Is this always easy and pleasant? Certainly not. I’d be lying to you if I told you that the six HVACR industry certifications I’ve tested for over the years (in the areas of carbon monoxide and combustion analysis, air balancing, and heat pumps) was easy and pleasant. But, in the process, I learned something about the subjects I had to test on, and, in the end, it contributed to my competency.

And, competency is what we’re all striving for when we are professionals who are passionate and dedicated to our craft, no matter how the testing system looks to us. Here are three simple lines that I think technical professionals should live by as long as they decide to stay in a career such as ours:

Work with your hands; you are a mechanic.

Work with your hands and your head; you are a technician.

Work with your hands, your head, and your heart; you are an artist.


Artists are passionate about what they do, and while, yes, they do get paid for what they do, there’s more to their chosen craft than money. They do what they do because it feels right, and because it gives them a feeling of satisfaction that goes beyond receiving payment for what they do, then using that payment to cover their monetary obligations. And, if taking tests is part of what has to be done in order to be able to continue doing what they do, then, well, they figure out a way to get it done, whether they like that part of their career choice or not.

Learn from yesterday…..Live for today…..Look forward to tomorrow