YOU have been chosen. Your mission, should you choose to accept, is to assist the foreign liaison office, the inter-galactic foreign liaison office. Yes, as you have long suspected, we have discovered extra-terrestrial life. Our extra-terrestrial friends have indeed landed and they have questions, lots of questions. That’s where you come in. You have been hand-picked to brief our visitors about the finer points of … Olympic race-walking. Before you dispute whether you are suited to this task, let me remind you that we have performed the most stringent of tests (randomly drawing your name from a hat) to select you, and that the fate of our very planet now rests in your undoubtedly capable hands.
You’re probably wondering why the fate of our planet relies upon your ability to teach aliens how to race-walk. That information is classified. However, I can tell you a few things about your students. They come from planet Nelia in a zero gravity galaxy far beyond ours. This means that they cannot speak English and have no idea how to stand, never mind walk. On a positive note, they are a peaceable race but with absolutely no concept of what a race is. Good luck with your endeavour. The Bureau of Inter-Galactic Affairs (BIGA) will contact you shortly.
Sadly, all the above is a figment of my imagination but I hope I’ve achieved my goal of helping you to realise how hard it would be to learn such an important and complex skill knowing next to nothing about it, and on the flip side, the difficulties of walking such a person through learning this skill which we all take for granted, pun intended.
So why do aliens, race-walking and perspective taking have anything to do with psychological testing? At the moment for the masters / clinical / practical component of my degree I’m learning how to administer and interpret various psychological tests of intellect and memory. In particular we’ve been focusing on the WAIS, WISC and WMS. It feels like being stuck in the middle of a Sesame Street episode, with today’s episode being brought to me by the letter W. At times I also feel a bit like the aliens from planet Nelia, waiting to turn their hand, or feet, to race-walking. I’m a lot better off than them because I was familiar with these tests, basic principles of psychological testing, intelligence and memory beforehand, but it is still like learning to walk for the first time, so new and challenging.
I know that with lots of practice, administering and interpreting these tests will be as natural as breathing. Already I can say that when I do look back from week to week I wonder why I was confused, worried or so slow, though I have a long way to go yet! It’s also fun to be learning something new, knowing that the only way is up and feeling free to make mistakes as I work things out. While it’s still just as important to master skills and give my best effort as it was in Honours, that sense of pressure has eased. I’m not waking up in the middle of the night any more to realise that I’ve been dreaming about my assignment, wondering whether I should have included X or talked about Y. And although I haven’t gotten my first assignment back, I don’t think it will be as nerve-wreaking an experience. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Honours year and my Clinical PhD has its own set of challenges. However, it is nice to have left that “I must get an HD for everything or I’m doomed” mentality behind.
Gort! Klaatu barada nikto!