Pollock Testing Center: Penn State’s Maximum Security Prison
Just about all of us have taken an exam at
the Pollock Testing Center Penn State’s Maximum Security Prison. If you have been lucky enough to avoid this awful place, consider yourself fortunate, but know that it is coming for you.
A little background information: the Testing Center was established in 2007. Its advantages, specifically to faculty, are efficient standardized testing procedures to cut down on cheating and a quick turn-around on exam scores. One advantage to students is the time flexibility to schedule an exam during a given day; however, once inside, the place can become a nightmare.
Upon entering, one must immediately dispose of all belongings into a large blue bag: Goodbye cell phone, adios water bottle, see ya after the test backpack. Next, students must walk through turnstiles to swipe their PSU ID. If this does not work (which always seems to happen to me) a “guard” will manually let you enter.
Upon following directions on the entry ticket to one’s computer “cell”, it becomes a nice stay in solitary confinement: Student vs. Machine (And maybe a piece of scratch paper)
As one logs-in and begins the exam, cameras are everywhere, watching one’s every move, waiting to pounce on anyone who tries to cheat the system. If one has a computer emergency, they may quietly raise a hand to seek assistance, but this is the only human interaction permitted inside the prison.
Here are some interesting comments and stories I gathered from people’s experiences at the Pollock Testing Center:
“My student ID never worked there, so I couldn’t swipe in our out without causing a hassle for the person behind the counter. They never seemed too pleased.”
“It feels like you are entering a space ship.”
“It feels like you are going to go on a Disney ride.. and then they throw a test at you.”
“I had to go there to take stats exams. On one of the tests, many of the problems were too small to read on the computer screens. The proctors said they couldn’t do anything to fix it and to just guess at the quesetions. Our grades were not adjusted.”
“I went there, took a test, then left.” This kid was lucky.
All of these quotes can summarize the experience well. In all seriousness, I have survived and done well on most of my exams there. Most students who have studied and come prepared have also performed well. The testing center is a necessary evil that creates flexibility and is an innovative idea intended to make lives easier, but the process remains nerve-racking especially when someone is trying to get into a peaceful mindset before an exam.
Upon completion of an exam, one may log-off, swipe their ID to exit, and remove one’s belongings from the blue bag. They have been let out early for “good behavior” until next time.