World Supreme Blade Prometheus writes that becoming a scythe shouldn't be easy. He says that the rite of passage to become a scythe is extremely cruel, which is why it will forever be a secret.
Prometheus's writing suggests that cruelty isn't actually something unique to Goddard. Instead, it's something secretly embedded in the entire Scythedom.
The day before Winter Conclave, Scythe Curie drives Citra to Fulcrum City. She'll take her test tonight and get her results tomorrow. Citra is troubled that she has to take it alone and that Curie won't tell her what it is. Citra learns that she'll be tested last, and finally a guard fetches her. He takes Citra to a room where five scythes, including Scythe Mandela, sit at one end. There's a table with five weapons on it, and Mandela directs Citra's attention to the other end of the room. Lights go up on a bound figure in a chair, a person on which Citra must demonstrate how she gleans. Citra pulls the hood off and sees that the person is Ben.
The test is designed to force new scythes to recognize that by becoming a scythe, they must sacrifice everything from their previous lives —including a trusting relationship with one of their loved ones. The fact that Ben is a young child makes this even more difficult for Citra, especially since she's already vowed to never glean children. This then also tests her commitment to the Scythedom, even when it asks her to do something she finds awful.
Horrified, Citra shouts that they can't make her do this. One female scythe steps forward, offers Citra a box with slips of paper, and says that Citra has to choose to do this. Another scythe says that Citra will render Ben deadish. The fifth scythe reads Citra the rules of the test and Citra opens her slip of paper. It reads, "knife." Citra hears Curie in her head, saying she can do it. She realizes that every scythe has taken this test. She also knows that it's impossible to differentiate between temporary and permanent killings; this will scar her and Ben. Citra asks why she has to do it, and Mandela gently explains that after this, Citra will have done the most difficult thing.
The knowledge that the human brain at this point in time still cannot differentiate between real and temporary death suggests that all people who experience deadish—from Tyger's splatting to Rowan breaking Citra's neck—are fighting a natural human instinct as they hurt themselves and others. This reminds the reader that for all the advancements in the world of the novel, humanity hasn't yet been able to cure itself of a fear of death and pain.
Citra picks up the knife, approaches Ben, and cuts his bonds and gag. Ben asks if Citra is going to hurt him. Citra doesn't lie, but she says that he'll go to a revival center. She says it will hurt, and then Ben asks to see the knife. Citra lets him hold it and Ben admits he's afraid. He asks if he'll get ice cream at the revival center and Citra nods. She asks him to close his eyes and tell her what kind of ice cream he wants. As he does, Citra stabs him like Curie stabs her victims.
The way that Citra conducts this practice gleaning shows that she has the emotional capacity as well as the skill to be a good scythe. Ben trusts her to take care of him and make this as painless as possible—though it's important to keep in mind that he'll likely never trust Citra as much again, and this is Citra's steep price to get into the Scythedom.
The committee immediately begins to lob criticisms at Citra. Some feel she was compassionate; others think she's sloppy and took unnecessary risks. They dismiss her. Citra meets Curie in the hallway and shouts that she should've prepared Citra better. Curie leads Citra to the bathroom to wash and tells her how the other candidates did. She says that Rowan drew the pistol and pulled the trigger before they had even finished reading the instructions to him.
While Curie's account of Rowan's performance may be all fact, it doesn't take into account that Rowan may still be trying to throw the competition and give it to Citra. Acting so heartless like this may make the committee question if he'd simply follow in Goddard's footsteps if ordained.