I went through something similar last year, albeit for a software position:
Recruiter: Can we talk for a couple of minutes to see if you are the right fit ? 5 Minutes into the call she unexpectedly proceeded to announce " I am now going to ask you a few technical questions" followed by almost an hour of gotcha and definition questions, and at that point I figured we weren't the right fit I should have hanged the phone earlier, ohh well...
The code review/test is both rampant and despised in the software industry (at least by coders), the consensus is that they don't reflect the end quality of the employee and that if you must test, you should give them something from your ticket cue or a specific problem you are having, as well as considering the portfolio or previous work. Here's an interesting write up on the topic: Why hiring is so hard in Tech
I bring it up because I think it also applies to Design, If I am interviewing for a CAD jockey job or general Design job, if I get asked to do a random academical exercise ( redesign a potato peeler, Cad a part) I kinda feel like a tool,it's not fun, if on the other hand they tell me their new product is such or their parts have x problems, I can actually feel excited, there is also a lot to be said about how these test are presented and administered.
My experience across a few industries/ countries has led me to believe that hiring ( tech/creative/design) is inherently broken at many levels, OP's case is sadly not that uncommon.