I remember reading this book/story, maybe 25-30 years ago

It was a story about a society that had their children tested for aptitude. Whatever they scored well in determined what they should study to prepare for their life's work. After the test was given, the machine/computer would score it, and the candidate would know immediately what course of study they would do best in. Math, architecture, biology, engineering, teaching, etc...

The main character was a child who took the test, and unlike his best friend, did not get an immediate response. He took this lack of answer as a personal failure and that he was not fit for any kind of work. His friend did get a response, and almost immediately started excitedly studying for his career.

After some time of ambiguity, the child is put into a 'generic' school. Nobody tells him specifically what he is supposed to be working towards, and he is taught a little bit about a wide variety of topics. He does okay, but has a lingering feeling of ambiguity, and doubt - since he hasn't been assigned a career. This isn't helped by his old friends who were ribbing him about how he doesn't have a focus of study.

It isn't until very late in the book, that he finds out that the reason he wasn't given a career, was because his specialty was Synthesis, or the bringing together of everyone else's specialties. They are a rare, treasured, and precious thing in the world. "We have thousands of people who can do architecture and math, but only the rare few who can combine their efforts and do something truly useful."

I strongly remember the title "synthesist" being assigned to the main character in this story. Anyone know/heard about this story?

Update: I just finished reading Isaac Asimov's "Profession." While the two do share the concept of the "testing children", I don't recall there being any interplanetary aspects, or instant learning in the story I am trying to find. The story I recall still had the children in classes for years afterwards, and the conclusion did not involve an escape, and visit to the local Profession Olympics. Might there be a similar story out there?

Update2: There was a second suggestion. The moving walkways and having to break in and change test scores also do not sound familiar. I will try to find that story and read it. Until then, I can't confirm for sure.

  • @KyleJones No. See the last paragraph edited into the question. – Rand al'Thor May 16 '16 at 18:24
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    I'm reading a book called "Heretic", by David Beers. In it, children are tested then assigned to a future place in society. Children that don't meet the standards are termed "unessential" and liquidated. Literally. This isn't the story you're looking for. Another story I read long ago was about a child that was being tested for IQ. In that story, the child was terminated because his IQ was too high. I don't remember who wrote that one. – Howard Miller May 17 '16 at 0:39
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    Doing a quick and dirty search brings up a couple options on Google. While none of them immediately stand out as great matches, Beyond This Horizon by Heinlein might be close. As I have not read the book I cannot say if it matches beyond having "synthesist" in the wikipedia page. – Xantec May 17 '16 at 23:10
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    @Xantec If Beyond This Horizon is the right book, the OP should be able to find something here that rings a bell. – user14111 May 18 '16 at 4:40

I'm going on a long shot, and the mention that a male character ends up becoming a synthesist, that you may be remembering Alexei Panshin's Rite of Passage. The story is told by Mia who wants to be a synthesist. By the end of the book, she's changed careers to an ordinologist and Jimmy is going to be the synthesist.

Mia and Jimmy live on a generation ship. When they turn 14, they'll be put down on a planet to survive for a month. If they survive, they'll be considered adults and begin work on their careers.

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  • Probably not, seeing as the OP doesn't recall "there being any interplanetary aspects." – user14111 May 18 '16 at 4:56

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