Standardized testing is used widely across the world, and it is very prominent in the U.S. Approaching college, students spend hours studying for the ACT and SAT and pay $50 to take each test hoping to get a good score that will permit us to get into our dream college. But do standardized tests actually test students’ intelligence and academic skills? If they don’t, why is society still so dependent on them?

In Valerie Strauss’ article, “What do standardized tests actually test?” she brings up an ancient Chinese proverb: “Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me and I’ll remember. Involve me and I’ll understand.” This adage is relevant today to the influence of standardized testing on classrooms. Since testing is so prominent in students’ lives, they get SAT/ACT tutors, sign up for prep courses, and many high school teachers even set aside time during class to help students out for their tests. During this time, we are studying only to pass the test. We are doing everything we can to learn the tricks and tips of taking the test, trying to memorize and much information as we can. Throughout this process, the involvement aspect of learning is stripped away. Students are not understanding the information they are learning – we are solely remembering it. Our understanding is not shown in a standardized test, only our memorization is. 

Of course, it can be argued that a standardized test is necessary to show a student’s academic proficiency. But, admissions officers can see our grades for every class, which seems like it should be enough – however, because colleges require standardized test scores, students who work hard to get straight A’s their whole high school career are often overlooked just because they are not proficient test takers.

Many colleges acknowledge that testing doesn’t show our proficiency, and make their applications test optional. This option seemingly gives students who are not great test takers a better chance – but that is not always the case. Often, these test optional schools are less likely to accept students who don’t submit their test scores, so it is still a struggle for them. 

Although test optional schools aren’t making a drastic impact on the influence of standardized testing on society, they represent the amount of people that are realizing the negative impacts of test taking. Slowly but surely, more and more people are seeing it for what it really is. Unfortunately, for those of us who do not find standardized testing beneficial, there is not much we can do about this process – students don’t want to protest or boycott it, because the reality is we do need our scores to get into our schools. But hopefully, not too far in the future, more people will notice that standardized testing cannot sufficiently measure one’s knowledge, and adjust the process to something less stressful and more effective.


  1. Alysa 11 months ago

    Stella, I agree with you completely. It is completely pointless because it is just memorization. When you stated the Chinese proverb “Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me and I’ll remember. Involve me and I’ll understand.” it reminded me of when I was studying for the ACT. It is not about how well you have done in school, it is about if you are capable of memorizing tips and tricks to master it. There should not be secrets to the test. I agree that if a student has done well through their grades that that should be enough. College already requires a lot cost wise and trying to get the perfect score just adds to the cost. The ACT is thought to be so important, but when you get into college it is forgotten- so why do we need to take it? A student’s future should not depend on just one test. I agree that our entire lives and high school career makes us the students we are today and College should just focus on this and not a standardized test. I found this article and I think you would like it:
    I did not know about the fact that test optional schools look down on someone who does not post their test scores. A student is more than a test.

  2. Sandra 11 months ago

    Stella, I agree with you. First of all standardized testing has a range of material that students may or may not know. Some students take camps in order to study for this one test that will determine their college future(which I think is so unfair). Even with the study camps, some students who have practiced to take the ACT or SAT still don’t get the results they wanted. Colleges would rather look at students as a score rather than how they are as a person or their accomplishments. I enjoyed how you included the Chinese proverb because I think the more you are taught and actually involved the easier it would be for you to succeed and understand. I found this article written by a college student who has struggled to get the scores she wanted and how it unfair for a lot of people who want to go to college and get a better future for themselves but can’t because of their low ACT scores.

  3. Prerna 11 months ago

    Hi Stella,
    I completely agree! We live in a system where no matter how hard you work for four years, one morning of testing could change your life forever. Not to mention that most of the standardized tests don’t test how hard you work to study for them you might still go poorly. Those who are poor tests takers often struggle with admission into colleges even though how good you are at taking tests will probably never matter at the actual career you are striving for. We can hope that in the future colleges become much less reliant on standardized testing but for now this is the reality we face.

  4. Dominic 11 months ago

    Hi Stella, for the most part I agree with your argument and think that you brought up some very good points about why the system of standardized tests has flaws. I don’t agree with your idea that grades sufficiently tell colleges how smart a student is or how well they can perform in school. One of the easiest classes I have taken in high school was an AP class, but colleges don’t know that and believe I got an A in a college level course when in reality it was a walk in the park. I think that if schools and teachers found a way to make all classes the same no matter where or when you took it, then tests like the SAT and ACT wouldn’t be necessary. The reality is that a GPA only says so much about a student because a 4.0 from one school might be much easier or harder to attain at another school. This is why I believe standardized testing is a necessary evil for colleges to evaluate a student’s intelligence. It gives all students an equal opportunity to show colleges their academic prowess.

  5. Ella 11 months ago

    Stella, I loved and agree with everything you said about standardized testing. I also do not think that they accurately reflect a person’s intelligence. I agree with everything you said, especially the statement, “Throughout this process, the involvement aspect of learning is stripped away. Students are not understanding the information they are learning – we are solely remembering it.” This is so true. People do not try to learn the information of the tests. They are just trying to remember what the tricks are to getting good scores. I also agree how there are so many kids who work so hard to getting straight A’s but aren’t good at tests, so they feel like their chances of getting into their dream college are hurt. I also think that it does not accurately reflect a person’s level of learning. We aren’t learning what is on the test in school, so why should we have to? I really enjoyed reading this and thought it was a very good topic. So many kids feel like this and the weight of it should be reconsidered among schools.

  6. Kaitlyn 11 months ago

    Stella, your points are so strong. The part you talked about the Chinese proverb: “Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me and I’ll remember. Involve me and I’ll understand” really stuck with me. This is so important for colleges to consider, as many people haver different learning and remembering capabilities. The standardized tests seem to be more revolved around how much we remember vs how much we have learned. Also, the point you made about the students that work hard to get good grades but don’t get “good enough” test scores stuck with me, too. When I test for anything, I do not perform well even though I have worked really hard to get good grades most of my academic life. The question you have raised is incredibly important as more and more people become aware of the negative aspects of standardized testing. I feel like more people should read about this topic so they are personally aware. I look forward to reading more of your insights as they are very real and I can connect with them.

  7. Kathryn 11 months ago

    This is great! I am in complete agreement with you about the error in using standardized tests as a means to measure student intelligence. The value of learning and true inquiry is done away with completely in such processes, and thus does not show an accurate evaluation of students’ abilities. When you say “This option seemingly gives students who are not great test takers a better chance – but that is not always the case. Often, these test optional schools are less likely to accept students who don’t submit their test scores, so it is still a struggle for them. “, this shows that although test optional school seem like a good choice for students that aren’t proficient test takers the schools still admit students who do submit test scores with more frequency.

  8. Horyna 11 months ago

    Hi Stella, I completely understand and agree with everything you said. As someone who is not a very proficient test-taker and who has worked extremely hard throughout high school to maintain good grades, the weight given to standardized tests in the application process seems unfair. The ACT and SAT do not measure a student’s intelligence, they simply measure a student’s ability to take a test. I think you would really like the following article published in the Penn State newspaper: When you said, “this option seemingly gives students who are not great test-takers a better chance – but that is not always the case,” in regards to test-optional schools I could not agree more. University of Chicago, for example, is one of the most prestigious test-optional schools, yet, their admissions rate is only 6%. Thank you so much for sharing information about this topic. Before reading this, I had not given much thought to test-optional schools and how they are somewhat of a double-edged sword for applicants. I would love to know what you think about the article I linked. It argues that standardized tests are not great indicators of academic success.

  9. Amani 11 months ago

    Stella, I 100% agree with you about how standardized test don’t show all the knowledge someone has. As a student struggling to get that perfect score I find it hard to believe that is all my knowledge on one exam. I also loved how you talked about the Chinese Proverb “Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me and I’ll remember. Involve me and I’ll understand.” I feel like this is a good example on how some teachers teach. I wish these test weren’t apart of getting into college because I feel like our grades and GPA should be enough. For me I am not a good test taker yet, I still get good grades and a good GPA and getting into college is hard due to just one score. I feel like this is an interesting topic, I just want to ask is your school very strict on getting high scores? Or are they more laid back about it? It would be interesting to see how colleges look at these score today verse 10 years ago. Thanks for sharing this information, I found it very interesting and relatable.

  10. Tomas 11 months ago

    Stella, I agree you you. I think the tests do not effectively show how “smart” a person is. I think the standardized testing system has become corrupt. Teenagers study how to take the test more than actually learning the information that will be on the test. The test is also very broad. It tests a range of material that seems impossible to understand before a test date. The Chinese proverb, ““Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me and I’ll remember. Involve me and I’ll understand,” really caught my attention. I think it was a great support to your claim. I see this proverb in my life everyday. I learn more efficiently with active participation and practice. With me just hearing information, it might as well go in one ear and out of the other. I think schools need to be more accepting of certain test scores. Certain people do have problems with taking tests. A great student may be the worst test taker but a college seems to not care. I would love to see colleges be more accepting of individual’s scores and efforts, and focus more on what kind of student they are, and how they fit in that school’s environment.

  11. David 11 months ago

    Hi Stella, I can’t agree with you anymoe, this post really hit home, especially as a student preparing to take these standardized tests. I thought the Chinese proverb was interesting because I’ve never heard it before, but after reading it, it makes so much sense. I think this philosophy should be more widely practiced.

  12. Maggie 12 months ago

    Stella, I completely agree with your point of view. As an educator, I strive to follow the philosophy stated by the Chinese proverb because that makes learning authentic and useful. Test-taking strategies have become something we “teach” because that is how schools, teachers, and ultimately, students are measured. I wish it wasn’t part of the curriculum, hidden or otherwise. I wonder what non-test schools are doing for admissions and what prospective students’ and parents’ responses have been. Do these schools conduct interviews or require a portfolio of work? Are they viewed as not being as competitive? This is an interesting topic and one that I believe more people will be interested in as the pressures surrounding testing (not learning) and college admissions increase.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Youth Voices is an open publishing platform for youth. The site is organized by teachers with support from the National Writing Project. Opinions expressed by writers are their own.

CC BY-SA 4.0All work on Youth Voices is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License


We welcome new members. You can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Missions on Youth Voices

Log in with your credentials


Forgot your details?


Create Account