Cia nearly faints after seeing Ryme’s dead body in a frilly yellow dress. Dr. Barnes steadies her and asks if she is all right. Cia wants to say no, but her father’s warning stays with her. She gathers herself and tells Dr. Barnes that she is fine. She tells him everything that happened with Ryme, including her suspicion of the corncakes. But Dr. Barnes insists that Cia is not to blame for Ryme’s death. He says that the Testing has served its purpose in weeding out the weak. Cia is still disturbed later that night, but she holds herself together for the cameras.
Later that day, the candidates are given some free time. The Five Lakes group goes outside to enjoy the day, and Cia notices a nearby fountain that isn’t working. She enlists Tomas to help her fix it. Afterward, the names of those who passed the first round are called. All of the Five Lakes candidates passed. Will, one of the twins they met earlier, passes as well. His brother Gill, however, does not.
The next day, the second round of testing begins. In a group with Will, Malachi, and a few others, Cia is taken to a room, and each is given a box with instructions. The first test is to separate poisonous plants from edible plants. After double-checking that each candidate is confident in their answers, the proctor instructs each candidate to consume the plants they deemed edible.
As each candidate nervously waits to feel the effects of a poisonous plant, they are given another box and asked to restore a pulse radio. In that box is another smaller box with a number of wires sticking out. Cia wants to explore the box further, but she knows that there could be consequences. As she is finishing her pulse radio, she sees Malachi swaying and sweating. He reaches and begins fiddling with the smaller metal box, and a nail shoots out and punctures his eye.
Cia tries to comfort Malachi, but his body slackens. He dies while the test continues. Cia must move on to stage three, and determine which samples of soil contain nuclear radiation. Next, the students must input the answer to a math question into an electrical device; a wrong answer causes electrocution. Then the group rebuilds a solar power converter, which causes a girl to lose the tip of her finger. Finally, the group must each purify contaminated water and drink the water if they feel they performed correctly.
Cia helps Will back to the cafeteria table, as he is stiff and sweating. The officials ask if anyone would like treatment for their injuries, and Will gets up to leave. Cia, though, forces him to stay in his seat. After fevered dreams of the candidates who have died, Cia sees Will the next morning. He thanks her and mentions that the candidates who sought treatment did not return to their rooms.
During the next test, Cia is separated into a group of four with Annalise Walker, Brick Barron and Roman Fry. They are told that there are five questions in five different adjoining rooms. Each question can only be attempted once; anyone who tries to enter the room of a question that has already been answered will be punished. It is up to each team to decide who answers which questions. Annalise takes the lead, and the group attempts to figure out who should take which room by answering test questions.
While the other three show aptitude in all of the example questions, Roman gets all of the questions wrong except for the first one. He says that he will go first since that is the only type of question he can answer. Cia, unsure of Roman's enthusiasm to go first, tries to protest. She is outvoted.
Roman leaves the room to answer his question, and it takes nearly two hours before the group is signaled that the next person can go answer their question. Annalise leaves, annoyed that Roman took so long. Cia then begins to flip through Roman’s practice examples and notices that he did not attempt to answer any of the questions except for the first one. Cia realizes that Roman has manipulated his team, and he has actually answered all five questions, which is why it took him so long to complete "one" room. This way, when his teammates go into their agreed-upon question room, they will be punished for re-trying a question he already solved. Cia tells Brick her suspicions, and he casts her opinion aside. Cia is adamant, though, and does not go through the door to answer her question.
Walking past the door to her question, Cia heads straight for the cafeteria and sees Roman, who is not pleased to see her. Cia does not see Annalise, however. Minutes later, Brick walks through the door - without answering his question either. The next morning after receiving word that he made it through to the next round, Brick gestures at Cia in thanks.
Dr. Barnes meets with the candidates and announces their fourth test, which is a survival challenge. The candidates will be dropped in a war-ravaged Chicago, hundreds of miles away from Tosu City. Their task is to make it back to the city alive. Cia and Tomas make a pact to meet at the highest location they can see. Then they will finish the challenge together.
Michal appears and takes Cia to a storeroom. Though he looks pleased to see her, he sticks to his script, telling her that she can choose three items in addition to the bag she brought with her to the Testing. Cia chooses a water kit with fresh water and a testing kit, a handgun with two boxes of ammunition, and a medical kit. She knows that she has Zeen’s transit communicator as well as sturdy clothes, so Cia feels like she is as prepared as she can be.
Michal then leads her to an underground tunnel system, and they travel miles to a transportation facility. Once there, she and Michal eat their lunch outside away from the other Testing officials. Michal confesses to her that he and a few others are trying to change the way the Testing is done. He hates how the process is brutal and deadly, and he admits that the Testing only produces one kind of candidate rather than taking into account the different strengths of each individual. He also offers her words of advice for the fourth round: only trust her friends from Five Lakes, and don’t try to be the first one back. Cia then feels herself slipping under - Michal has drugged her.
Cia wakes up hours later in a box cell with a bed, a bathroom, and some extra food. The countdown timer for the final testing round reaches zero, and the door to the cell opens.
In these chapters more than most, Charbonneau’s theme of social Darwinism is apparent. Taken from the biological idea of evolution and survival of the fittest through adaptation to changing environments, social Darwinism is a theory that those who possess, or learn to possess, the best qualities to survive in a certain social environment will thrive. In The Testing, Dr. Barnes shares these sentiments with Cia when he consoles her about Ryme’s death. He says that the Testing has done its job by weeding out someone unfit to be a leader.
The same can be applied to Malachi’s death as well as Annalise’s disappearance. Malachi did not have the scientific aptitude to be a great scientist in a post-apocalyptic society, and Annalise put her blind faith in someone she had never met before. To people like Dr. Barnes, the Testing is a way to find the strongest, smartest, and most adept people and turn them into leaders for the new, post-war world.
However, many people do not agree with this sentiment. Cia’s father and the other leaders from Five Lakes Colony do not trust the Testing for their own reasons, but people like Michal and the others he mentions are trying to fight this idea from the inside. Michal mentions that the Testing only produces a certain kind of leader, and he is right.
Oftentimes, people like Roman will survive to the end of the Testing because they are willing to trick, hurt, and even murder those more trusting. Michal does not believe these types of people should be in charge of the United Commonwealth, and he thinks that Cia could be the key to bringing down the status quo.
As Ryme was the first candidate who died during the Testing, her death is extremely significant. She haunts Cia’s dreams every night, and Cia always sees her in the yellow dress she died in. The color symbolism of the dress is two-fold; at first, it symbolizes how friendly and cheerful Ryme seemed when Cia first met her. However, that cheerfulness warped into a disturbed sickness, another meaning that yellow connotes, that caused Ryme to take her own life after performing poorly on the tests. The color yellow can also be attributed to Ryme through the corncakes, symbolizing trickery and deceit.
Malachi's death is another shock for Cia, and affirms her suspicions that Testing officials do not truly care about the candidates. The testing round carried on as he bled out on the ground, with little or no reaction from the authorities. Here, too, Cia relies on her stoicism, and after honoring her friend, she goes back to her station and successfully completes the exam. This is a turning point for Cia. Although she does stick to her Five Lakes sense of community, and disagrees with how little the officials care about Malachi's death, she does not let this stop her from trying to succeed. Cia is more pragmatic than idealistic, which is perhaps why Michal and the others feel they can put her faith in her to join the nascent rebellion. Cia is able to adapt to survive.