Standardized Testing

Standardized tests are used by most schools. They are thought to demonstrate a students level of understanding and what they were able to learn through their classes. However, there is a lot of controversy about standardized tests nowadays. According to “The problem with standardized test” (By Meagan Gillmore), standardized tests are a poor way to test a student’s knowledge. Many teachers see standardized tests as a way to test a student performance rather than their knowledge. Standardized tests are based off what a student can remember, and when put into a stressful situation such as a standardized test many students perform poorly and forget little pieces of information. 

However, not everyone sees standardized tests as a bad thing. Bryan Nixon argues in “The pros and cons of standardized testing” the pros of standardized testing. Standardized tests are not purely to test a student’s knowledge. Many schools use their standardized tests to test the schools curriculum and its effectiveness. Scores from different schools can be compared to see which school does what right. In the end standardized tests can improve students’ learning experience by improving on their curriculum.

Standardized testing will always be a hot and controversial topic. The tests have their pros and cons, as seen above. In the end standardized tests do hold their place within school, but not in the area of determining kids understanding.

Why is society still so dependent on standardized testing?

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.

Why Do Colleges Still Look At Standardized Testing Scores?

It’s that time of the year. Senior high school students are finalizing their journey at their current institution and are preparing to move on to the next stage of their life, college. High school seniors, me being one of them, have spent countless hours and lots of money on things like application fees, transcripts, and especially standardized test scores. If you ask most seniors, the most stressful part of applying for college is the standardized testing. Many students think that the ACT and SAT are the only thing that defines them as an individual; the score that will set them over the top and make them worthy of acceptance. But in recent years, students, and more shockingly parents of students, have been caught cheating on exams to boost their scores to get them into more competitive schools. So with anxiety and cheating levels on the rise for highschool students, why do colleges still look at standardized test scores? 

The true purpose of the ACT and SAT, as said by the College Board, is to level the playing field for students that come from diverse backgrounds. Grades have been on the rise in the last couple of years, so the goal of standardized testing is to truly measure a student’s mastery of the course material that they retained from highschool. On the flip side, lots of students, parents, and even college admission boards believe that standardized testing shows bias and are over used when weighing your admission to a university. Students can take the test as many times as they would like. Seems perfectly fine right? Wrong. Each test costs anywhere between 45-60 dollars alone without a registration fee. Students that don’t have the financial ability to take the test 5 and 6 times are left with little to no wiggle room for improvement. Many wealthy families on top of paying for the test will hire a tutor, people guaranteed to make their scores go higher if you pay a lot of extra cash. Unless you are a super genius or wealthy, the standardized testing system is stacked against you. 

In the last couple of years, standardized testing scandals have emerged from under our noses. Rich families have been found cheating their children into incredible scores thanks to Operation Varsity Blues. According to the NY Times, Operation Varsity Blues was an undercover investigation that led to the charging of 50 cheating cases on standardized tests. Cheating may not seem that easy, but if you have the money and the power, it’s a lot easier to get that perfect score. Many students will hire other classmates to take the exam for them, a more risky form of cheating. To fix the issue of getting caught, parents will help students create fake IDs to give to their false child on test day. Parents will also bribe the proctors on test days to give their kid more time. I think the worst way of cheating by parents and students, is to claim a false disability to allow for more time in a more private setting. This ruins taking the test for people with actual disorders like anxiety or a learning disability because it leads to discrimination against students with disabilites. 

Many schools have tried to combat this inequality by making their institutions “Test Optional” to make the students themselves shine rather than a test score. But schools and standardized test companies are still a long ways away from preventing these cheating scandals and bridging the gap of inequality.

Standardized Mess

Standardized testing is used in the US system in order to gauge what a student has learned and college readiness. Standardized tests such as the ACT and the SAT are important steps in the path toward college. These tests are important factors in the admissions process and indirectly to the working world. However, the tests have been criticized for being an unfair estimate of a students intelligence and applicable skills. Students also have different opportunities to prepare and study for the tests based on economic and social factors. The tests as a whole tests how a student can answer meaningless questions on a single day with different levels of readiness, not their true academic ability.

As a whole, standardized tests do not achieve what they are supposed to in testing students knowledge evenly. According to, the tests reward students who can think quickly on shallow questions. The tests have disregard for deep thinking and creativity in answers. The tests do not accurately represent the vast majority of students curriculum, testing them on sometimes unfamiliar knowledge. Scientifically, how the tests break up questions does not align with how the brain works. Standardized tests breaks up knowledge and concepts into separate bits; however, the brain works by connecting new information with things that were previously learned, not chunking. This can be solved by creating more questions that require more thought and have more significance to the test section.

Another factor in a students success on these standardized tests is the preparation they receive from their school and third party resources. In another article, the author talks about the unfairness of students taking the same test. The test can be seen as an equal way of evaluating student, but as students have different education backgrounds, anxieties, and needs, the tests becomes less and less baseline. The point is also made that mainly affluent students have many more resources than students who take the test without prep. Because of the inconsistency in test readiness, the test is not a true test of college success. Another aspect of many tests is the essay portion. This portion cannot be graded by a machine without bias and in turn has to be graded by a person. Although they are given a guideline on how to grade the essays objectively. While they are told to be objective, human error and subjective reasoning can account for different grades on similar essays. The tests shows bias toward different populations of students creating an inherent unfairness.

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