Thanks all REALLY. Tester - I appreciate your lone wolf perspective because I want to be objective in my assessment. Perhaps what you describe is what prompted their replacing the struts, but the distinction I tried to make to mechanic was did it fail the PA inspection.
I purposely did not give make/model/mileage, because did not want that information to distract from my two questions, re: 1) new way to test shocks and 2) latitude of a mechanic when performing inspection per codified inspection regulations.
Subaru, Legacy wagon, 2002, 167,000 miles, roads are mostly highway, small town, suburban. It rides like a legacy wagon - there are no thunks or noises when going over RR tracks. I am original owner and steering/suspension checked every 15,000 miles (follow the Subaru maintenance manual) and keep all records and a repair matrix. And 9,000 miles ago my regular (Delaware) mechanic checked suspension. Sure, car could use struts and lots of things, but were the struts behaving in such a manner that they failed the Penna inspection.
I also withheld from OP the following:
Rear wiper blade because it was torn. Blade was less than 6 months old, and I had used it that AM to remove snow from rear window and watched the blade remove the snow - guess I missed the tear. He provided me with torn wiper.
Battery was weak and "I wouldn't want to walk out to my car and have it not start." He had one at the shop that he could install. I responded battery was less than three years old. When I arrived at shop, he hooked it up to machine and fully charged it and it came back at "489" on a "550" battery and 12.34 volts. He said in earlier test it came back at 420. (Feel free to comment on these readings - I don't have time to research it.) Oh, and he had no way to know how old battery was. Even, lugnut that I am about this stuff, I know how to read a battery's age! I declined new battery.
And belts were cracked and they should be replaced: He showed me minute horizontal lines on belt, but no physical cracks. I declined belts.
I paid for struts and walked away with the bad struts. I made it clear to him that I was going to perform my due diligence because I did not believe that it failed per the inspection requirements and that I would be back if my research supported my position.