A couple of years ago, I too took a cognitive test. Sort of. It wasn't the same test that Trump took and was for a totally different reason. I had to take it because I was applying up for a Long-Term Care insurance policy, and before they will let you have it, they require taking this test -- it's not on your behalf, but theirs. They don't want to be committed to providing this great policy when it turns out you've already broken down.
It's also different from the one took because it was all done over the phone. So, there were no pictures requiring you to point out the elephant. Honestly, I'm not even 100% sure what the test was because I didn't care. I just wanted the policy because it had been highly recommended. So, if they said, "You have to take this test whatever in the world it is," I was fine with it.
Though no pictures of animals were involved, there were several questions of lists you had to repeat back. Some had to be repeated in order. Others didn't have to be repeated back in order, but the lists were much longer than just five words. Maybe a dozen or so. (As the person was reading it off, I kept thinking, "Okay, enough words, already, stop!!" All the while thinking, "Okay, stop thinking that you want the list to stop, because you have to concentrate on the list.") And then later on, they asked you again to repeat words from that list again -- though as before, in any order because there were so many. And I'll admit that it did make me a bit nervous because my mind doesn't tend to work that way -- I'm more visual. If I see something demonstrated to me, I get it pretty quickly. If it's described I do flounder more. So, when someone is describing a task for me, I try to create some visual image to go with it. (In fact, come to think of it, it's sort of like Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock Holmes "Mind Palace," though without the unraveling a complex mystery part.)
I also have a very mild case of "face blindness." I can generally match a face with a person fine, but not perfectly. I've often had people say hi and have absolutely no clue what their name is -- or sometimes who they are. I once introduced myself to someone at a party, and she said, "I know, Bob, we met yesterday." (She was the executive vice-president of an agency I had interviewed with for a freelance job. In fairness, there were a half-dozen other people from the agency at the table, but still... She thought it was insultingly hilarious.) Mind you, I can remember all manner of minute details about the person, but just not always recognize the face. And though this test was over the phone and, as I said, not visual at all, I still didn't know if this quirk of mine would manifest itself in any way related to what they'd be asking.
I was also admittedly a bit nervous as the test went on, although not on my own health's behalf, but because I wanted to get the policy. And not knowing what I was going to be asked, I had no idea how hard or easy the next question would be. And if I failed because I sometimes remember things differently than other people, or -- as a writer -- have a different perception of the world around me, I would be annoyed at not getting the policy, not because I wasn't qualified to be Commander-in-Chief of the United States armed forces.
In the end, I'd say it was...well, normal. It took about an hour, and it had absolutely nothing to do with intellect (which Trump seems to want to imply), but basically how aware your mind is of the world around you. Most of the questions were pretty basic and therefore easy. And none were difficult scholastically. They were all just observation, and some thing require more observation than others.
It takes a few days to get the results back, and I was told I did very well, which surprised me on basic "nervous" principle, but also since I knew there were certain words in the long lists that I didn't repeat back, especially the second time. But then, I guess the comparative standards for judging the results are different than I presumed. After all, some people taking the tests are probably in their 80s, and might have difficulty identifying that metaphoric elephant.
One thing I do know for sure -- not once did the person giving the test say after one of my answers, "That's amazing, how did you do that???!", as Trump insists his doctor said to him. I know that that didn't happen because there was no chatting during the test. There was nothing subjective going on. Most importantly, there was nothing for which an answer would even be "amazing." It wasn't a test of convoluted mental gymnastics to trick you. Much as I'm sure they'd hope you be able to answer as much as possible, the point wasn't that you'd do that, rather it was simply to see what you would answer.
I'm also not sure if it's even possible to "ace" the test like Trump says he did. As I said, it's not a scholastic test, but an observational one.on your mental aptitude. That one can get 35 answer "right" out of 35 questions might not even be a realistic concept, since they're really looking more for responses than answers.
By the way, being able to repeat five words back in a row might be a cause for nerves if it meant you would get the policy, or be allowed the nuclear codes, but it's not really something that's "amazing." A few days ago, when the Trump-Wallace interview aired, I found some of the cognitive test questions online, one of which was to repeat back five words in a row. The words were "face, velvet, church, daisy, red." Amazing. How did I do that?!!!
I also know that I didn't go around bragging to all my friends and strangers on the street that I'd passed my test. I was pleased -- because I got my policy. But I didn't challenge others to take the test and see if they would do as well as me. In fairness, I don't have the slightest idea how I really did. There was no score. I just did "very well" and got the policy. And for all I know, getting the policy by definition means that you did "very well," so everybody who gets the policy is told they've done "very well."
In the end, what I know most of all is that the reason I took the test was because I was required to in order to get the beloved policy. It wasn't because my doctor thought, "Gee, y'know, I...er, think it might be a good thing to test how cognitive you are. Nothing to worry about, but -- well, how soon can you come in? And make sure someone else drives."
I'm only sorry that it wasn't visual. Because I know I would have aced the question about identifying the elephant.