The State Writing Test: Not Your Average Standardized Test

StateWritingTestsFunnyHidden behind the big-name tests like the PSAT, SAT, AT, just plain T, etc. is a lesser-known but more important test: the state writing test. It’s more important because in most states, if you don’t pass, you can’t graduate from high school, whereas with something like the ACT, you can get as low as a 35 out of 2400 and be sought after by colleges.

But let’s back up for one second. The state writing test is not nearly as stressful as the SAT. In fact, it almost seems like a standardized test done right. Almost.

The Premise

The idea of the state writing test is to test your writing ability. And unlike other standardized tests, that is actually true. Sure, no boss is going to ask you, “Can you read this passage and then tell me why the main character sighs on line 23?” but many jobs involve writing things like legal disclaimers, memos, and legal disclaimers for memos.

The Bubbles

The bubbles at the beginning are truly why this test is so wonderful: they’re already filled in by some sort of ominous black circle-stamping machine. Whereas with the SAT you must pay $87 and submit an address, phone number, email, photo, and blood sample, and then have to fill in your own name, the state writing test already knows you exist, all for the cost of $0. Unfortunately, however, if any of the information is incorrect, there is no way to fix it, so you can either be Hpil (female) with a high school diploma or Phil (male) without one.

The Rules

The rules of the test are not nearly as nice as the bubbles, unfortunately. To begin with, you must fit your entire work onto the one page (front and back) provided, and you can’t draw extra lines in between the lines, nor extra lines in between the extra lines in between the lines, even if you’re writing the next great American formulaic sequel-after-sequel book series with a possible movie deal.

Also, you can’t use excessive profanity or vulgarity, which means just about everything you’ve ever learned from your favorite movies about writing artful dialogue or creating gripping plots is useless.

Furthermore, you aren’t allowed to research or talk with others about your writing, closing off the valuable essay resources of Facebook and Yahoo Answers.

But worst of all, you aren’t allowed the internet, period, and spelling is more heavily weighted than in an SAT essay. How are you supposed to Google whether it’s “unneccessarrillyy” or “unecesarily?” Sure, you’re allowed to use something called a “dikshonary,” but I don’t think that would help. It’s just a big heavy book with the alphabet written on the side in little flaps, I guess in case you forget how to write, like, a capital “G.”

The Prompts

The state writing test has 4 prompts (at least in my state), which initially appears quite nice. Sure, it’s more than the number of prompts on the SAT or ACT, but once you get down to it, the prompts are really no better.

Usually, they fall into four distinct categories: expository, persuasive, self-narrative, and imaginative. For example, your prompts might be:

  • Imagine that you are eating a piece of fruit, and it starts talking to you. Write about the conversation you have and the valuable life advice you gain from your produce.
  • A group of basketball players is playing basketball. Persuade them that golf is a more athletic sport.
  • Many people visit the beach and play in the sand. Write about a time when you went snowboarding.
  • Explain how to make your favorite food. Include measurements, preparation tips, and whether you used outspoken or mute ingredients.

Other Things of Note

While all that may sound pretty straightforward, there are a few other things everyone should know.

To begin with, you have unlimited time during the state writing test. So, if you get really involved in your analysis of golf, you can spend weeks, or even months, perfecting your arguments. Sure, you’ll miss a lot of class and have a ton of makeup work, but at least the next time you go to a Heat game you can convince LeBron to finally pick up golf.

But, as we’ve seen in regards to prompts or bubbles, unlimited time isn’t the only advantage these writing tests have over other standardized tests. In addition, regular standardized tests like the SAT have been accused of being biased against minorities, the poor, or the illiterate. The state writing test, however, is much less biased: you can write your essay/story in either English or Spanish! Although in retrospect, I’m sure there are people who argue that this is simply evidence of anti-Slovakian bias.

Whether or not you like them, state writing tests are a graduation requirement, and are thus pretty much unavoidable. Sure, the prompts are stupid, and the rules are restricting, but let’s face it: at least it isn’t graded on neatness of handwriting. If it was, it would take most of us over a decade to finally pass. And 26-year-old high schoolers just don’t strike me as good thing.

Along with the state writing test, the new semester usually brings new classes, and with them, new syllabi. Which means you’ll probably want to check out, “The Only Guide to Class Syllabi that You’ll Ever Need,” published at this time last year.

How to Use Phones (For Teens)

PhonesfunnyIt’s obvious that nobody uses phones anymore, aside from salesmen, pollsters, and caring robots that go out of their way to let you know that your prescription is ready to be picked up. Even your grandmother uses Skype (which means, at best, Skype has another two years before it becomes outdated).

Why do we even still have phones? Well, mostly because adults, somehow, still find a use for them. This is reason number 45 why adults are uncool.

But for teens, a phone is more like a desk sculpture. It looks like it belongs on your desk, and watching the blinking lights is way more fun than doing your homework, but you’ve never really used it. Or touched it. Or even realized that if you wanted to, you could call someone, right now, and actually hear their voice. Scary.

Now don’t get me wrong: I’m not trying to come off as better than you just because I did call someone over the phone last month, for about two minutes.* I see no reason why you should spend much time on learning to use a phone; it’d probably be about as useful learning cursive. But in case you wanted to, needed to, or tried to use a phone, you should know how.

*The conversation went mostly like this:

Me: Hello?
Friend: Hey man whassup?
Me: ’s Phil.
Friend: Yo Phil why you calling me, bro? Somebody die? Multiple people die? Oh man, don’t tell me that the Taylor Swift concert already sold out.
Me: What? You like Taylor Swift?
Friend: Uh, I never said anything about her. Must be a faulty connection or something.
Me: Oh. Well, I wanted to ask about the English group project.
Friend: Why didn’t you text me?
Me: I had a lot to say.
Friend: It’s called e-mail, dude.
Me: I wanted to make sure you got it.
Friend: Man, you could’ve just used registered FedEx and I would’ve hadda sign for it.
Me: Good point. I’ll text you the basic details and send you an email with more info. And you’re still P.O. Box 3268, right?
Friend: Yeah whatever man. I gotta get off the phone now; it’s giving me a headache.
Me: How do I hang up?
Friend: Just hit the button.
Me: Okay.
Me: No that just put you on the speakers. I’ll go ask my parents how to hang up a phone.
Friend: Ok. See ya.

When To Call

As you can see, there is little reason to use phones to actually call people. This means that you should use a phone call in a very limited number of situations.

The first is obviously when a reply is urgent. This includes things such as when you’re injured, when you’re getting married, or when you can’t find the peanut butter and you’re home alone.

The second is if sound is an important aspect of communication, and you’re not able to skype/facetime because there’s no wifi (so, in someplace like North Dakota). If you really need urgent feedback on your interpretation of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” then by all means, call your friends. You might even consider making it a conference call.

How to Call

Really, how hard can it be? You just have to dial some numbers. Right?

Wrong. First of all, if you’re calling someone long distance, you have to dial 1 or 9. You also have to locate the phone app on your smartphone, which is less used than Apple Maps.

Secondly, after you’ve dialed, you have to understand the sounds you hear. If you get “Bum-Dee-BEEP: I’m sorry, but this number is no longer active,” or some other error message, you have the wrong number (this may seem intuitive, but if you think about it, calling back in an hour and hoping the number is re-active, or more active, or awake, or something—I really have no idea what that message means—would also make sense).

If you hear: “Bzzeep-Bzzeep-Bzzeep-Bzzeep,” that’s a busy dial tone, and you should call back when the person gets off of the phone. I promise you that if you are calling a friend, you will never hear a busy tone, because if this is a person who used their phone regularly, you wouldn’t even have considered being their friend in the first place.

How to Start Your Call

If you’re calling an adult, they are way more familiar with phones than you are, so you don’t need to say much more than your name. If you’re calling a friend, however, you need to make it clear why you called rather than texted/Facebook-messaged/emailed/snail-mailed/telegrammed them.

While your reason might sound fine to you, I guarantee teens hate being called. It means we have to drop whatever we’re doing, or balance a phone on our shoulder. Plus, we can’t take our time in replying like we can with a text or email, so it’s incredibly mentally strenuous. There’s a reason that we text in incomplete sentences; it’s the best our brain can do without spending a half hour on each text.

So, you need to add to drama to the situation.

Let’s say you’re calling because your history group project is due tomorrow, and you need to let your friend know what they are supposed to do. In that case, your initial intro would sound something like this:

“Hey, it’s Phil. Sorry to call, but our history project is due in like 6000 seconds, and I need to tell you what part you’re doing or else we’ll get a D- and my parents will revoke my driving, internet, eating, bathroom, and sleeping privileges. And also the other group members are holding me at scissor-point and forcing me to call you.”

In conclusion, I’d like to remind you that “with great power comes great responsibility.” Sure, you now know how to call someone, but that certainly doesn’t mean you should. And if you do need to call someone, just play it safe: only call teens who you wouldn’t mind accidentally putting on speaker in front of your parents, and teens who are generally nonviolent, if they choose to retaliate.

As finals conclude and the second semester gets underway, you may be starting some new classes. In that case, you’re probably in need of “The Only Guide to Class Syllabi that You’ll Ever Need.

A Guide to School Bus Emergency Safety Features

(click image to zoom)

(click image to zoom) Correction: A bus driver has alerted me to the fact that there are actually 0 airbags on the bus.

It’s a well-known fact that teens are pretty safe people. We don’t engage in high risk behaviors, we have a fully developed brain, and we are usually asked to be consultants to many of the major airbag companies.

Ha. If only that were true. Actually, aside from skydivers and human cannonballs, teens are probably the least safe group of people, in the history of the world, ever. I could go into all of the terrible alleged things we do, but, in the interest of not writing a 1,900,000 word blog post, I won’t.

No, the real reason I’m bringing this to your attention is that if you’re already unsafe, you really need to take advantage of every external safety feature in your life. And that includes time spent on a school bus. So, in the interest of preserving the lives of my readers, I’ve broken down just how you can stay safe on the school bus.

Brace Yourself

Unfortunately, safety cartoon cards instructing you in proper brace-positions are reserved for airplanes, because the airlines can’t afford lawyers to fight off lawsuits, while—little known fact—most school bus drivers have an ivy-league law degree (the economy is still recovering).

As a teen, though, you are probably smart enough to understand that you should try and brace for a crash/flip/rollover. The real issue is figuring out how to brace yourself.

You could just push against the seat in front of you, but 9 times out of 10 the only thing holding it in place is dried gum. Plus, your head could get stuck in one of the gaping holes in the back of the seat, and then you’d suffocate on that toxic gray foam the seats are stuffed with.

Another option would be to brace yourself against the wall of the bus, but if you haven’t already noticed, the whole bus is just one large, metal can, so it won’t be too much better.

Ideally, you can find some friends to lean against, and their bodies will cushion the impact. If no one is around, though, it’s probably a good idea to just stick your head inside a large textbook and let that act as a helmet.

Emergency Exits

Yep, the fun part of any bus-safety crisis. See, most school buses have from 2-4 doors; when you load/unload the bus, the bus driver limits you to using only one just because they like to feel important (they’re lawyers, remember).

Plus, many school buses have emergency exit windows, every third window. They are rarely used, but bus companies figured out that they could save even more money by not completely attaching the windows and then calling it a safety feature.

So, in the event that the bus gets in a situation where evacuation is necessary immediately, you’ve got a lot of options. You have so many options, in fact, that there is really no reason to remain on the bus in any situation. As soon as your speed is below fifteen miles an hour, just exit, assuming you’re not on the freeway. In that case, get out of there regardless of speed; the bus is either going to hit another car going 60+ mph or a solid concrete barrier.*

*Note: I am not a bus safety expert. This is probably not what a bus safety expert would recommend, assuming bus safety experts even exist. I am an ivy-league lawyer, however, so don’t bother suing me. We are everywhere. (I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but your toaster is also a practicing personal injury lawyer that graduated from Columbia. It’s a new cost-saving measure enacted by appliance companies. If you get burned, you can just settle your claim immediately).

Bus Safety Supplies

In addition to having absolutely no solid brace position and loads of emergency exits, the school bus you ride on likely has a number of safety supply kits. You’ve got the bodily fluid clean-up kit, the first aid kit, the fire extinguisher kit, the second aid kit, the flare kit, the understudy to the first aid kit, and the bodily fluid spill-again-for-laughs kit.

Furthermore, you’ve got a fire blanket, traffic cones, a broom, and a radio. All of those, save the radio, are found in various labeled metal lunch boxes left over from the 1980s.

Now the biggest problem with these safety features is that they are strapped to the bus. Remember, in case of an emergency, you’re going to first brace yourself and then exit the bus. Nowhere in there are you supposed to risk your life for a fire blanket or safety kit. Thus, while they may give you a false sense of security, they are only useful for personal emergencies, such as those times when you left your bodily fluids at home and need some to get you through the day.

Overall, I have no idea how safe or how dangerous school buses actually are. Thankfully, due to manufacturing restrictions, most school buses can only go 5 mph and have to stop every block (regardless of whether or not kids need to de-bus) to remind the cars behind them just how much it sucks to be stuck behind a bus.

If you’re lucky, you won’t even have to take the bus because school is canceled due to snow days. Unfortunately, because of global warming, “We Need More Snow Days.”

How to Be Sick

FunnyVirusYou might think that’s a dumb title. You might think that you would know how to be sick. Heck, you’ve been sick lots of times before. But, let me ask you this: were you ever sick in such a way that it was, y’know, like, sick?

Probably not. Most people are under the impression that catching a cold is an unpleasant experience. They’re right, of course, which is why I’m not advocating for you to go out and try to get sick.

But it happens, and when it does, there’s no reason why it needs to be as unpleasant as many people make it out to be. In fact, being sick creates lots of opportunity.

Are You Contagious?

You will inevitably be asked this question by every friend, acquaintance, enemy, and potted plant that you meet throughout your day. They really don’t care that you’re sick; what they want to know is, can they get sick?

In fact, that’s what you need to tell yourself: people who ask this are selfish. Thus, you can justify lying to them.

The first way to go about it is explain that you are incredibly contagious: “Yeah, I am contagious. I have something called the um, oh shoot, the, um, the black something. Let’s see…it wasn’t the black life…oh, I remember: I have this minor thing called the Black Death. Apparently it’s like super contagious and super deadly; as we speak, the government is building a concrete fence enclosing the entire state, and Hollywood has already undergone plans to fly Will Smith in here and get a movie going. But it’s probably nothing to worry about.”

But, if you don’t want the person to spend the rest of the day reflecting on his/her life that is about to end, you can also play a pitiful victim: “Contagious? No. I’ve got some sort of genetic thing that is just now manifesting, where my nose tissue slowly dissolves into mucus and my lungs are coughed out of my body, cell by cell. The doctors say I’ve got at least a year to live, though.”


Aside from dogs, no one really likes to hurl. Unfortunately, throwing up is a common syptom of your average stomach flu.

So, let’s say you’ve got the stomach flu. You know you’re going to barf. What you need to do is consider the very best or most comical time to vomit.

In case you aren’t sure what I mean by that, here are some ideas:

  • As soon as your classmates have finished lunch
  • All over that homework you didn’t really put effort into, right before you turn it in.
  • Right after your dog vomits for the tenth time that day
  • When your parent/friend takes a bend in the road too fast
  • When your name is called on the attendance list

A Runny Nose

The most widely spread symptom of any virus seems to be a runny nose. Now, many people like to make jokes about just how much their nose is running, but since you’re being sick the “sick” way, you’re going to go above and beyond.

The first thing you should do is go out and buy some expensive Nike running gear tailored to fit on your nose. If your nose is going to undertake the initiative to start running, it deserves only the very best.

The next thing you should do is hook up a hydro-electric power plant to your nose. That way, when someone tells you, “Dude, I went through five Costco-sized pallets of tissue boxes yesterday,” you can reply, “Man, that’s nothing: my nose powered my laptop, charged my phone, and kept my 80-watt lamp burning all night.”

A Cough

We all know that you can get away with saying almost anything if you say it while faking a cough. So, if you actually have real coughs, take it as an indication that you need to go around spouting the truth. For every single cough, you should have some other statement that you exclaim.

Some starting ideas for what to say include:

  • Answers to a test you’re taking in class
  • Names of random celebrities/political figures
  • Good-humored insults
  • SAT words

Thus, a conversation with a friend might go like this:

Friend: “Hey, you wanna hang after school’s out?”

You: “Yeah man, totally.”

Friend: “Cool. So how about we-“

You: *Cough* *Cough* Sarah Palin *Cough*

Friend: “What?”

You: “I didn’t say anything. What were you gonna say?”

Friend: “Oh, just that we could probably go to-“

You: *Cough* Ubiquitous *Cough*

Friend: “I’m sorry? Dude, what does that even mean?”

You: “What? I have no idea what you are talking about.” *Cough* Your hair *Cough* looks ridiculous *cough*

Friend: “Okay, that’s it. I’m done with this. See ya some other time.”

You: “Dude, what the heck? Just ‘cause I’m sick you don’t want to hang out with me?”

Friend: “Yeah, you’re right. Fine. I think we could go to that pizza place like at 4:00 if you’re up for it.”

You: “Cool. See you then.” *Cough* Gullible *Cough*

All things considered, even if you’re sick, it isn’t all bad. Sure, you might feel worse than that piece of gum you’ve been chewing since 8:00 AM this morning, but at least you can have some fun along the way. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go jump over the concrete “Quarantine” barrier around my house and evade a couple CDC soldiers to get to the park to meet some friends.

If you’ve been lucky enough to stay healthy so far in this flu season, you might be more interested in our “Invaluable Guide to 5 High School Winter Sports,” published at this time last year. If you’ve ever wondered what to yell at a wrestling match or if the point of skiing is simply to break bones, then this post is for you.