Type Story
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Rick's Wait

"Rick's Wait" is a short passage used as an example on the SAT-9 (Stanford Achievement Test, 9th edition) standardized test. The whole school would shut down for a while to take one of these tests, and every time, when we got to the reading comprehension section, the sample passage would be "Rick's Wait". When the time came, the teacher would read out the instructions and the story, then the questions. Here's the whole thing. Read it to yourself as I read it aloud:

Rick walked outside. He could tell the storm was coming. The air was very still and the cows were lying down. Then a puff of breeze blew the dust at Rick's feet. The smell of wet dirt reached Rick's nose. Five miles off, the tip of a cloud rose up from behind a high hill. Rick shaded his eyes against the sun and looked down the road. There was still no sign of his brother's truck.

The sample questions asked why Rick went outside, and what happened between Rick going outside and smelling the wet dirt.

By the final time we sat down for the standardized tests, everyone certainly knew "Rick's Wait." I remember someone calling out "I wonder if Rick's brother will show up this time."

Between 1995 and 2001, millions of students took this exam, every year; the tenth edition was released in 2002 (Pearson Education, Inc., 2009). Every one of us read this little story over and over again. And then, around 20 years ago, this ended. No one was taking the SAT-9, any more. The test is proprietary, and they didn't just hand it out to curious parents, so there aren't a million copies in the hands of the public to preserve this little piece of our childhood.

It's such a little thing that it's barely preserved at all. Look around. There are casual mentions on a few blogs, a reddit post, and an amusing tweet (Ben Cook [@CptOppositional], 2021). Among those were a couple of copies of the text, perhaps written out from memory? The version I provided above was taken from a school's entrance exam for sixth grade (Saint Augustine’s College, 2021) which includes the text and sample questions that match my recollection of the SAT-9 (though the text differs very slightly from that provided elsewhere on the web). That's the only 'official' source I could find; I presume they had a license to use it.

The texts and questions used by these tests are written by freelancers, submitted in hopes of being selected for the next edition of the test (Yardley, 2000). I don't know whether that's the case for "Rick's Wait", since it's a sample question, or if it might have been written by someone on staff.


Ben Cook [@CptOppositional]. (2021, February 28). “Rick’s Wait,” an example story used for reading comprehension sections for several years. [Tweet]. Twitter. https://x.com/CptOppositional/status/1365850204675715075
Pearson Education, Inc. (2009). The Changing Norms Phenomenon: Apparent Versus Real Changes in Achievement Performance with Updated Norms for a Norm-Referenced Achievement Test (Stanford Achievement Test Series, Tenth Edition: Special Report). http://www.aacs.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/SAT-10-Changing-Norms.pdf
Saint Augustine’s College. (2021). Saint Augustine’s College Entrance Examination Grade 6 Level (Sample Test). https://irp.cdn-website.com/a0a3be52/files/uploaded/Sample_Test.pdf
Yardley, J. (2000, April 9). A Test Is Born. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2000/04/09/education/a-test-is-born.html