Nick's Blog

Personal opinions. Aggressively stated.

Final Exams

It’s been a good and long weekend. On Saturday I saw some old friends at a conference nearby, and on Sunday GI Jane and I had a three hour study session in preparation for the final.

I must say I feel okay: I’m confident. You can miss 88 of the 355 questions on the final examination and still pass. The drill for the day is that we arrive in PT gear, head into the big defensive tactics room for the test, take it, and then after we take it, there’s a PT final examination. The reason we’re in the DT room for the test is that our classroom is taken: Class D starts today.

After lunch, we’ll be taking an online test to practice for the state examination.

A couple of days ago, sitting in the break room, I ask Dave: “Sir, there’s a rumor that if you fail the final, even if you’re not on the bubble, you fail the academy, is this true?

“It’s more true than not,” says Dave, and I realize that there is some wiggle room. In fact, there’s an argument brewing about this. Dave, whose bonus, pay-raise and other job performance metrics are tied to maintaining 100% pass rate on the first attempt by the cadets, of course doesn’t want to allow anyone who won’t pass to take the state exam. Obviously this is why he has been so Draconian about the pass/fail line, and so quick to cut cadets who don’t keep up. To be fair to him, he told us this on the first day.

To be fair to us, though, a deal’s a deal: on the first day, he told us that if you fail any test you’re given one make-up attempt; if you fail the make-up or any subsequent test, you’re out. To move the goalposts at this late date is a breach of that deal.

Monday morning, I arise at 0330 and go through my test ritual, looking back to the online flashcard sets I’ve been making and maintaining since the first week, plus transportation code, and penal code, until 0700. There were a few constitutional questions I went over, making sure I knew my Eighth from my Ninth and my Fourteenth amendments, and then trying to remember case law. For example, every time I see the phrase “Fruit of the poisoned tree,” I think of it being read by Charlie Chan playing a Chinese waiter and remember that the case law for it is Wong Sun v United States.

I arrive at the academy at about 0720, and see there’s chaos. Class C is getting ready for PT. There are two in-service training classes taking place in other classrooms, for cops returning to fulfill their continuing education requirements. And a bunch of fresh-faced, nervous looking folks in white t-shirts and black shorts are milling about. Class D, I presume. Then I look and see that I recognize two of the Class D folks: Mezza and Ella – the female cadet who washed out in week five – have recycled, and they’re back in Class D. In fact, Ella has been sponsored for the academy on this time round by my agency.

We say our hellos, but frankly I’m just nervous and ready for the test to start. The first thing we’re required to do is move the tables and chairs into place so we can begin testing. Then Dave comes in:

“When you finish, put your test papers up here. The Scantron doesn’t go higher than 300, so you have to use a second sheet for questions 301-350.” We begin.

At question 252, I see that there are no answers:

According to Family Code 85.025, a protective order is effective for the period stated in the order,
not to exceed _____.

a)
b)
c)
d)

I go into Dave’s office and show it to him and he tells me that we’ll all get credit for that question.

As I’ve mentioned, when I take the tests, I go through the whole test paper answering the questions on the question book, then go back and bubble in the answers on the Scantron sheet after I’ve completed the whole book. For those I’m unsure of, or those I know I don’t know, I write an “X” on the test book. After I go through and bubble in all the answers on the Scantron, and know I’m done, I go back and count the Xs, which gives me a worst-case-scenario grade. Today on the final I know my worst-case-scenario grade is an 83%*. I’m done at 10.30. I go hang out in the break room, which, as usual, begins to fill in.

My classmates and I are having a grand old time in the break room; I think I’ve said before that tribal brotherhood is a product of time, or suffering. We Class B brothers and sisters have suffered together, and we’re close-knit. Even those of us who hate each other are intimately familiar with one another and in all cases except Lt America (who would not put his neck out for anyone; by the way, Lt America and I are not talking since our little shit-fit, which suits both of us just swell), would fight for one another. I state this confidently.

By about noon, the rest of the class is finished; Dave brings us all back into the DT room, along with all of class D, and we’re doing our PT tests. I did 59 pushups and 55 situps in a minute. That’s an improvement over 47 and 32, respectively, from the start of the academy. Childishly, I am thrilled to have beaten Lt America in both categories – I can’t help but gloat. Huh-nyah! Thhhhhp!

Then Dave says, “Okay, Class B, you’ve all passed your physical so you can run with music if you have it.” Well, hell yeah! This means that I don’t have to even try to beat my last time of 11.34 back in September, which was an improvement of almost a minute over my July intake PT test of 12:26. Now I can just run it slow. I do it in 13:05, coming in the line running side by side with Sig, for whom I was impersonating Miracle Max from The Princess Bride: “We’re closed!” during the last half-mile sprint.

We head to lunch, to be back at 2.30, and I realize that I have time to head to the police supply shop across town. In addition to my Texas Ranger-looking Mexican Peso badge, I’ve been already given by Dan the badge I’ll wear on my uniform during graduation, and I’ve stopped in for my ID card, which I have in my pocket. I realize that I don’t have a badge wallet to display these things. Also, in the Sims class, Oscar mentioned that he always keeps in his car one of those windbreakers that say “POLICE” on the front and back, in case he ever is driving by something and needs to get out and do something, or in case there’s ever something like an active shooter situation in a school or bank or something. That sounds like a really good idea. So I pick up both things, then head back to the academy.

I walk into Dave’s office and ask when we will find out whether we’ve passed the final.

“I told you guys, you all passed,” he said.

“Oh, I thought you meant that we’d all passed the PT test,” I said.

“No,” he said, “I thought I was clear: you all passed the final exam, you’ve graduated, congratulations.”

Huh. Would’ve been nice to know before lunch, but, you know? I can take this. All right.

At 2.30 Dave and Carlos enter the DT room and address the masses.

“You’ve all passed the academy, and congratulations. You did a great job. For those of you on the bubble, congratulations, you’ve made it. I know some of you have been on the bubble for a long time.”

“Since test 1,” says Murtaugh, and Brad chimes in, “Yeah, me too.”

“Okay, now that you’ve passed, we have some online test practice for you. We ask that you not tell anyone about this because we’ve worked hard to put this together. You will take this online test in the computer resource center, and it works just like the real test: there’s no bubbling in, it’s all on the computer.

“Do not be surprised if you score much lower on this test than you have on the academy tests. The academy tests have been to give you the knowledge you need out there. This test is to help you pass the state test. Oscar?”

“We haven’t taken the state test in years, and have not seen the new one,” says Oscar. “After you take the state test, do not come back here and tell us the questions that are on that state test, cuz that’s cheating. We do not want to know. What we do want to know are the topics – if you tell us, “Hey, your practice test was good but there were more questions on history of policing than you had on there” that’s good and it helps us make this practice test better.”

“So when you go in there,” Dave continued, “this is close to what you’ll experience tomorrow. A couple of things: we will not let you go across the street to take the final if we are not highly confident that you will pass. You will take this test at least twice. Once here, and once later at home. Again, expect your grade to be lower than you’ve been scoring.”

Then he hands out our finals. I got an 87%.

We head into the CRC and start the test. It’s 250 questions, but I complete it in about 35 minutes – much, much faster than the stupid bubbling in of the Scantron. I get a 79%.

Oscar and I talk about this. He says, “Here’s the deal: what was your final test score?”

“79%”

“So you’ll get an 83% on the state exam,” he said.

“Hmm, but my academic average is just about 90%,” I say.

“Well, then you’re going to do a little better on the state exam,” he tells me, “Guaranteed. If you don’t fuck it all up.”

Oh, great.

After we’d all taken the practice test, Dave came in to give us some information about what to expect for the morning; the schedule, etc. He starts giving advice:

“I’ll be having lunch at the wings place at about 12.30; I know we haven’t eaten together since I told you on Day 1 that I’m not your friend, I’m your administrator. That will be over then, and anyone who would like to come by for a beer, Oscar and I will be happy to have one with you guys. Oh,” he says, remembering something, “A  beer means just that – do not be showing up to graduation at a point one-zero,” he says, to laughter. “I say this why?”

“Because it’s happened,” reply about 15 of us.

“Yeah, it’s happened. So don’t get drunk. Okay. You’re all required to take one more practice test before tomorrow morning, or you won’t take the test. Understand? Okay, you’re all going to do great, so don’t worry about this at all.”

I head home after the academy, stopping to get some barbecued chicken and to pick up my dry cleaning. I watch House, then take the test again, this time researching the answers – they let us write down the topics we missed, so I was able to research just the questions I needed to study. At 10 pm I finished the practice session again, passing with a 94%.

I’m ready.

__________________
* Weirdly enough, as I look back on what I’ve written, it seems my worst-case-scenario grade is always an 83%!

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