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.