Return to normal SEA

BC Pires -
BC Pires -



LAST THURSDAY, thousands of 11-year-olds sat the Secondary Entrance Assessment hoping to pass for a “prestige school,” which, in Trinidad, means one where there are more stabs at scholarships in CAPE than there are stabbings in the schoolyard.

In sympathy, with children whose remaining 63 years or so of expected life may have been settled firmly as “desperate” in three hours last week, I begin my own Senility Entrance Assessment exam today, with the maths questions from a Newsday practice test. Next Friday, I’ll do “language arts,” the modern Trinidadian pidgin for what we used to call “English.”


Section I

Calculate the product of 26 and 2? The SEA examiners are lashing the dotish children hard from first ball, like Kieron Powell, instead of playing them in with several dozen soft dot balls, like Joshua Da Silva. Those little ones already headed to a life of crime won’t know what “product” is and whether they’re supposed to add, subtract, divide or multiply 26 and two, or put them into baggies and sell them to sprangers.

Nicole purchased a $10 hot dog and a juice with $20 and received $4 change; calculate the price of the juice. Nicole might as well start washing cars from now, if she hasn’t worked out yet that two doubles would carry her farther than one hot dog; and why doesn’t anyone in the SEA “buy” and “get” anything? Why do they have to purchase and receive?

If one mango weighs 600 grammes, calculate the weight of five mangoes and express your answer in kilograms? How about I express my answer in the back of your head? Who in Trinidad sells mangoes by weight outside of the supermarkets? The examiners should have sold sweet potato!

Which shape does not have parallel sides (a) triangle (b) hexagon or (c) square? Very decent of the examiners, this question: the dunce children won’t know what parallel means, but they won’t know what a hexagon is, either, and will choose the right answer because they’ll think a hexagon must be one of those foreign concepts, like standing quietly and waiting your turn or voting for someone who doesn’t look like you.

Section II

Q 21.
Calculate 910 ÷ 35. If, in your exam booklet, you coloured in the “divided by” sign to make it a “plus” sign, would you get one of the two marks the question is worth if you wrote in “945?” Worth a try, I think.

Lucy gave away 20 per cent of her stamp collection and sold 60 per cent of the remainder. What per cent of the stamps did Lucy keep? I know enough language arts to know Lucy kept a percentage, not a per cent, but my arithmetic gives me no chance of working it out; I would employ my Q21 strategy and white-out the words “of the remainder” and write in “20 per cent;” even if I’d have about as much hope of success as the Ukrainians against a limitless onslaught of Russian soldier “cannon meat.”

The Smiths left home at 8 am and took 1 3/4 hours to reach Mayaro. After one hour and 25 minutes on the beach, they took 1 3/4 hours to return. What time did they get home? But why did they drive near two hours to Mayaro? No matter where they started, Maracas would have been shorter on a Sunday, except for the four-hour traffic jam to get from the North Coast lookout to the beach, if you don’t arrive by 9 am. No matter how you work it out, the answer is, “They got home too late to see the football.”

Section III

Q 37.
Denzil stayed at a hotel that charges $400 per night Monday-Friday and $500 per night on weekends. If Denzil arrived on Wednesday and left on Sunday and spent $150 on food each day, calculate the total he spent. Congratulations to Denzil on being the first man in SEA history to spend money on food instead of purchasing it; now he should get a prize instead of receiving it.

At a fancy black tie event, Chris, the master of ceremonies, made a joke about Jada. Will walked up to the stage and slapped the crap out of Chris. What happened next? If your answer was, “A big fat firetrucking zero, the same thing that will happen to Vodka Shortman Hitler for murdering people in Ukraine,” you will have shown the examiners that you are ready for Big School, Hard Knocks Division.

That’s enough firetrucking maths. Next week we do language without any art.

BC Pires is likely to pass for a school of fish. Read the full version of this column on Saturday at


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