The Results Are In


This morning I went to take my TSI college placement exam at Austin Community College. I’ve been worried about this test for some time, especially the math portion.

They say that the average student takes three to four hours to take the reading, writing, essay, and mathematics portions of the test. Knowing that there would be a full section of the math section that I just didn’t know, I expected to be done earlier than the expected time, but my wife and I planned just in case it took me the full time and she packed her lunch today instead of coming home, since I would still have the car for her lunch hour.

They don’t allow you to take anything into the lab with you – not cellphones, not scratch paper, nothing. They let me take a couple of pencils into the lab with me, but that was it. All my valuables were locked in a locker and the key stayed with me. In addition, they hold your license for safe keeping during the test.

I started the exam at 8:57 am. I finished at 10:46. It took me just shy of one hour and 43 minutes, considerably less time than I expected. That made me nervous.

Fortunately, I didn’t have long to wait. In the time it took me to head out to the locker and retrieve my belongings they had my test scores ready for interpretation by the advising office. I grabbed my printout and headed down the hall to advising.

I scored a 388 in the reading placement portion of the exam. The minimum score is 351.

In the writing placement portion, I scored a 389. It’s up to my academic adviser to interpret that score for me, so I’ve left her a voicemail and am waiting to hear back, at this point probably tomorrow. I’m unsure what the minimum score is, but I’m fairly confident that I passed that threshold.

My score for the essay portion of the exam is pending review, yet in the test scores section of my report, it gives my score as 8. It also says that I have a “clear and consistent mastery of on-demand essay writing,” so I’m assuming that an 8 is decent enough to pass. I’ll find out tomorrow with a call to the assessment center.

All of those results were expected. But it’s the mathematics placement score that concerned me.

I haven’t taken a general math exam in over 30 years. Some fifteen years ago I took a semester of pharmacy math, but that course in large part dealt with specific formulas used in the pharmacy field and imperial to metric conversions. I wasn’t expecting a lot out of my score.

The minimum score required by the TSI is 350. I scored 361. However, I didn’t relax until I heard my adviser tell me in so many words that my scores were “pretty high” and that I’d placed out of any remedial courses required for college.

That means a lot to my situation. My education is in large part being paid for by the Texas Workforce Commission, and they have very specific requirements about what they will and won’t pay for. They’ll pay for pre-requisites, but not remedial courses. My results today just saved me over a thousand dollars out of pocket.

I’ve been very tired since getting home from the exam. I think the stress of uncertainty has gone away and I was putting a lot of energy into that stress. Now that it’s gone, I can relax, at least for the day. I’ve still got only a few weeks to pull everything together in order to make fall classes, and there’s still a lot to be done.

But this is one big obstacle down, and I can breathe again.

I Have Fear


Today I tested myself with the sample questions that Austin Community College gave me for the TSI college placement exam I’m taking tomorrow. There are sections in sentence skills, reading comprehension, arithmetic, elementary algebra, and college-level mathematics. (There’s also an essay question that I didn’t do because there’s no way of scoring it before the exam tomorrow.) Out of 25 sentence skills questions, I missed two. I scored perfectly on reading comprehension and arithmetic, and I missed six of 20 questions in elementary algebra. I attempted to go through the college-level questions, but it was very clear that they were all beyond me. I took a stab at a few questions that I thought I could figure out, and I missed all of them.

This concerns me a bit, as my deal with Texas Workforce Commission says that they only pay for the pre-requisite classes listed for the degree. If I wind up placing below college algebra, then I’m on the hook for that course, and it will be at the greatly increased out-of-district rate, which will be over a thousand dollars for one three-hour course. That could derail my whole degree plan with TWC, and my mind is trying to figure out all the “what if” scenarios that could result.

I once read that someone describes that act of looking for all the “what ifs” as trying to determine all the places a served racquetball could land. It’s just impossible to do without much more information – where the ball was served to, how fast was it served, etc. This situation with my education is the same way – I just don’t have all the data in front of me, and so many things are still speculation at this point that there’s no way of figuring out all the possibilities just yet. With time and a little patience, the path ahead will become much clearer.

I have to remind myself that going in to excel isn’t what I’m trying to do. I need to give an honest assessment of my skill level, especially in mathematics, in order to be placed in the appropriate class.

Fortunately I’ll receive my results immediately upon completing the test, so there won’t be any suspense about where I wind up. Based on my pre-assessment questions, there’s no chance whatsoever that I’ll place out of college algebra, but hopefully I won’t place below college algebra, either. That’s my best-case scenario.

Here’s hoping. I’ll give an update tomorrow. Keep your fingers crossed.

Whoops, But Mostly Yay!


Today has been a great day, and I can’t really put my finger on why that is. I woke up in a fantastic mood, and I’ve been chipper and upbeat ever since. Not even breaking one of my streaks yesterday was enough to bring me down.

Yesterday I forgot to log in and do my Khan Academy lessons. I’m not terribly upset by this, since for the last few weeks I’ve been very much calling it in over there, sometimes doing the bare minimum to keep the streak alive. It’s been a while since I put any real effort into my work on Khan Academy. I plan on getting back to it, but I think I’m going to take a few days off from it before jumping back on the bandwagon.

I think a lot of the reason that I’m in such a good mood is that I’m feeling much better today than I have been of late. It seems the worst of the strep throat is over and I have a good amount of energy today, so I think I’ll be able to catch up on some of the housework that I’ve let slide because I haven’t felt up to it.

I like this feeling. I don’t get to experience it very often, so I hope it sticks around for at least the rest of the day, if not longer.

Streaks II:The Streakening


So, back on August 22 I wrote this post about my learning streak coming to an end after 119 days, and how devastated I was that I had let it lapse.

To fill you in, what I consider my learning is a daily round of exercises in Elevate, which is a brain-training app, and at least two exercises in Duolingo, which teaches foreign languages – Spanish in my case. I got a lot of support from my friends who reminded me that it just means that I get to start a new, longer streak.

This morning the streak that I started on August 22 reached 120 days. It is now that longer streak that you all said I could do.

I want to thank everyone who supported me through a brief, but rough time where I was kicking myself for making the mistake of missing a day. That one day is now the only day that I haven’t done my learning exercises in eight months.

But I have some other streaks that are going on, and I thought I’d tell you about them.

Recently I made the decision to go back to school for my associate’s degree, and in preparation for registration, I’ve been brushing up on my math on Khan Academy. I’ve been doing that since the first of the month, so that streak is 19 days long.

I started using my CPAP machine on August 17th, and except for a single night that I was camping in October, I’ve been completely compliant with it .So that’s a streak of 65 days, followed by a current 58-day streak.

I track my mood on an app called Daylio. It helps me track my activities throughout the day as well as my overall mood for the day, and gives me the ability to write notes so I can relay the rough spots to my therapist when the need arises. That particular streak is now 200 days long.

I also use another app called MyFitnessPal to help me track my caloric intake. My streak of using that app is 240 days long, which matches my two long streaks on Elevate and Duolingo plus the skipped day.

And finally, the last day I missed writing down at least my morning vitals was September 20, 2015, which makes that streak my longest at 456 days.

These streaks are simple things in the broad scheme of things. One day I’m going to break all of them and start on a new one. But together they help to provide some structure to my otherwise unstructured day, and I’m thankful for each and every streak that I have.