How Naomi Darom Cracked the Formula on Guys and Good Grades

A lot can be learned from the psychometric exam besides math.

My dramatic decline from four to three matriculation units in mathematics in the 10th grade was traumatic for everyone involved − everyone being my parents and me ‏(the teacher didn’t care‏). It was the first time since the days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire that any member of my family had failed in anything other than gym. Worse still, there was genuine concern that I would not be able to become an engineer − and where shall we carry the shame?

However, a series of tests on which I got 13 or 20 out of 100 left no room for doubt: The girl does not have a gift for math and will have to take the sociology track, heaven help us. Years after high school I would still wake up in a cold sweat from nightmares in which I was made to solve integral equations ‏(until I had children and started to wake up from other things‏). For a few years, I managed to repress the fact that math existed, but once I was done with army service and it was time to take the psychometric exam − the Israeli equivalent of the SAT − my phobia once again raised its ugly head.

I didn’t know what I wanted to study, but it was clear that I wasn’t going to take that bloody exam twice. Gripped by fears, I registered for a preparatory course and for three months immersed myself in the study of the basic mathematics the exam requires − I devoted no time at all to English and Hebrew. I listened closely in the classes and raised my hand whenever I didn’t understand something. That was every 10 minutes on average and infuriated my deskmate, a grumpy-looking fellow who had no difficulty at all with math. But I didn’t care.

While taking the course I waitressed, and also met a cute guy, the best friend of the partner of my best girlfriend at the time. Regrettably, he took no notice of me. My girlfriend organized a slew of opportunities for meetings together, but he didn’t seem interested in more than polite small talk, and even during those rare conversations I giggled way too much.

A week before the fateful exam, however, the gods started to smile on me. In a simulated exam in the psychometric course I raised my initial grade by about 100 points, to almost 700 ‏(only 100 under the highest possible‏). “How can that be?” my deskmate asked angrily. “You always ask such dumb questions!”

I arrived for the exam itself as calm and focused as a Zen master, and two weeks later I got the result: 720. I proved to myself that, given enough time, money and effort, I could cope with mathematics at a most basic level. But that evening I got the true reward: We went dancing, and I found myself closer than ever to that guy, and then going home with him. We were together for a year and a half. At some point, I asked him why it happened just then.

“When we met, I thought you were an airhead,” he admitted. “But then I heard how well you did in the psychometric exam, and I started to look at you differently.”
And after all that, I enrolled in the graphic design department at Bezalel, where the psychometric exam wasn’t even a requirement. So it turned out that I spent three months in intensive studies just to get a guy. Looking back at that period, and at the guy, I understand two things: 1. After the age of 21, there is no real need to know math and therefore no reason to be afraid of it, either; 2. Men who judge you by numbers will never stop giving you grades afterward. For that alone it was worth taking the course.

Naomi Darom is a features writer for Haaretz

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