In the afternoon, the narrator is about to proceed with her aptitude test. Most of the test administrators are from the Abnegation community. The narrator notices Erudites, who “constantly pursue knowledge.” She thinks about Caleb—who already knows which group he’ll be placed into. For as long as the narrator can remember, Caleb has been generous and selfless.
Any high school kid knows about aptitude tests, from the SATs to the ACTs. Here, Roth captures the anxiety of these tests: the idea that one test can determine the course of one’s future is terrifying, especially when everyone else’s future seems to be predetermined.
One by one, the test administrators call the students into a room. Caleb goes into the room and emerges a short time later, looking very pale. The narrator knows she’s not allowed to ask Caleb about his results, so she doesn’t.
There’s a lot of secrecy surrounding the aptitude tests. This is ironic, considering that for the rest of Caleb’s life, everyone will know which faction he’s chosen.
The narrator is called into a room, and she is finally identified as Beatrice Prior. She shares a quick smile with her friend, Susan Black. Inside the room, Beatrice meets a woman named Tori, who tells Beatrice to drink a strange liquid. She does, and loses consciousness.
Despite the banal format of the test (missing half a day of school, standing in line), the aptitude test has an almost mystical feeling: it’s as if Beatrice is about to go on a transcendental journey.
Beatrice wakes up in a strange room. In front of her, there’s a hunk of cheese, and a knife. A woman shouts at Beatrice to choose between the two items. Confused and frustrated, Beatrice crosses her arms and refuses to do so. The woman mutters, “Have it your way,” and lets in a snarling dog. Beatrice is terrified by the dog. She then notices that there’s a young girl sitting in the room. As the dog approaches the young girl, Beatrice throws herself in front of the dog, protecting the girl. Beatrice slowly realizes that the snarling dog is really harmless and friendly.
Beatrice seems to be hallucinating, as evidenced by the way her fantasies keep changing abruptly. At the beginning of the section, Beatrice’s tests seem fairly coherent (we can guess that a violent person would choose the knife, etc.). But by the time Beatrice finds herself facing a dog, the meaning of the aptitude tests is almost incoherent. Even so, it’s worth noting that Beatrice shows bravery and protectiveness.
Suddenly, the dog disappears, and Beatrice finds herself alone in the room. She turns and sees a man with a newspaper and scarred hands. He shows Beatrice a photograph of a “Brutal Murderer,” and asks Beatrice if she knows him. Beatrice lies and says that she doesn’t (but she doesn’t reveal how she knows the murderer to us). The man shouts that Beatrice is lying, but Beatrice insists otherwise.
In this bizarre section, Beatrice demonstrates more bravery and integrity by defending the young girl from the dog. Even if we can’t decipher the exact meaning of the tests, there’s an overarching theme here: Beatrice is strong, courageous, and trustworthy, and meanwhile the government uses intimate, invasive mental tests in order to “categorize” its citizens.