Over the past few months, I have been studying to take the final licensing board exam. Passing that exam would give me the highest credentialing available for my degree. Not passing would mean paying to take the test again after six months had elapsed. I didn’t want to chance not passing, so I have dedicated many, many hours over the last month to preparing for today, Friday the 13th, the day I arranged in advance to take the test.
Spoiler Alert: The fact that there is a full moon tonight and that this day on the calendar may be considered unlucky did not have a negative effect on my test-taking abilities. I passed with flying colors and am moving on to submit all the necessary paperwork for state licensure.
But, after I received my scores and realized that I passed, I was remarkably aware of my disappointment. I had reviewed an encyclopedia of study materials. Practiced on over 1,000 questions. Listened to over 15 audio CDs. Handwritten 200 index study cards in order to take a 200 question test in less than 2 hours. What? I walked out of the building and thought to myself, “That’s it?” Three years of graduate school and a subsequent 3,000 hours of practice were necessary to sit for a measly 200 question test wherein only 160 of those questions were actually graded and I only needed to get 91 of them right. That doesn’t make any sense.
And yet, it does. All too often, I evaluate my progress and my profession by external measures of achievement. I defer to some governing board for a blessing. I buy into the status quo that asserts my competencies must be measured by a single exam, rather than by the passion and commitment I have to doing good work. I am not denying that there are appropriate measures and guidelines necessary to ensure that the people practicing are indeed capable and competent. I am simply acknowledging that I trust external measures to tell me what is true about myself more than I do my own intuition and self-knowledge.
There are some things I needed to learn before sitting for that exam. For instance, did you know that the Pearson Product-Moment Correlation Coefficient is a measure of linear correlation between two variables X and Y, giving a value between +1 and -1 inclusive, where 1 is total positive correlation, 0 is no correlation, and -1 is total negative correlation? Yeah, I didn’t either. But there are other things that I already know: I am passionate about this work. And that simply means that I would have practiced on over 2,000 questions. Listened to over 30 audio CDs. Handwritten 500 index study cards and taken a 400 question test if that’s what I needed to do in order to have the privilege of sitting with people and hearing their stories each and every day.