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Inside the Heads of Test Takers

Arbuthnot Honored as 2009 Outstanding Recent Alumnus
By Heather Hickerson

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It's test day. Your alarm goes off at 6:30 a.m., but you feel like you've been asleep for 10 minutes because you were up until 3 studying your ACT for Dummies book. You stumble out of bed, brush your teeth with your eyes closed and grab your book bag. While driving to the testing location, you do a mental check: I.D.? Got it. Calculator? Yes. No. 2 pencil? Oh, no! Forgot the pencil. You can't take the test without it, and there's no time to go back home. You reassure yourself; maybe they'll have extras.

When you finally get to the test site, you find a line extending down the steps from the door, so you get behind the other 16- to 18-yearolds sleepily waiting. Twenty minutes later, you get inside, pick a seat next to the oversized football player and ask him to borrow a pencil. Thankfully, he brought an extra. At the front of the classroom is a perky, coffee-drinking person reciting the test instructions, but you only half-hear him because your heart is thumping inside your eardrums. You think, "Did the Starbucks and ACT people get together and pick this guy?" He hands out your test forms, punches a stopwatch and proclaims, "Begin!"

Keena Arbuthnot

Keena Arbuthnot

The realm of standardized tests seems more like a high-stakes poker game these days. Because of programs like the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and the importance of preparatory tests such as the ACT and SAT for college admissions, students often face enormous pressure hinging on the outcome of these tests. University of Central Missouri alumna Keena Arbuthnot studies how test takers differ, identifying factors that contribute to certain groups testing better than others.

In the rare niche of educational psychometrics, Arbuthnot is confronting U.S. policy toward standardized testing and becoming highly sought after internationally for her expertise. For her dedication to education for service, she has been named the 2009 Outstanding Recent Alumnus by the UCM Alumni Association. The award was presented at commencement ceremonies in May.

After graduating from UCM in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in mathematics, Arbuthnot took a job as a math teacher at a predominately black high school in Atlanta, GA.

 

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