Standardized Tests Miss the Point

Standardized tests are meant to assess students’ college preparedness and ability to apply skills learned in school. The higher a student’s score, the better off she is anticipated to be after high school. Forms cover topics such as critical reading, math, science, history, and essay skills, and are expected to be completed in a uniform amount of time, hindering some student’s ability to perform their best. In many cases during the ACT/SAT, students have definitive strengths and weaknesses which lower their overall score.

There is also a financial factor to these tests that limits families without excess money for out of pocket expenses. Standardized tests are meant to be opportunities to earn scholarship money and college credit based on scholastics; however, it is not a reliable source for judging one’s academic abilities. Standardized tests’ time limits affect kids in varied ways, hampering some students’ quality of work. On average, they allow less than a minute for students to read and process each question, develop an answer, and confirm their decision. This may not seem threatening to some students, but to others it can easily cause stress and feelings of hopelessness. It is unreasonable to assume all high school students can develop answers to the same questions within the same amount of time successfully.

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Those who think quickly thrive, while those who are meticulous in their work become crippled. If a child has become accustomed to achieving high grades through cursory work, they are at a test-taking advantage, not an intellectual capacitance advantage. The speed at which one exerts their intelligence does not determine their actual aptitude. Therefore, ACT, SAT, and AP tests are flawed in their use of scores to evaluate a child’s intelligence. While Advanced Placement tests challenge kids in material learned throughout the course of a school year, the ACT and SAT combine many academic subjects into one equally weighted test, which can severely damage the scores of kids that are not expert test takers in all of the presented material. An honors English student that naturally struggles in math may be planning to major in Journalism.

They have very little practical use for Trigonometry, and this will not affect their abilities as a writer in any credible way. However, when applying to college, composite test scores show evidence that the student is mediocre overall, rather than an outstanding candidate for an English program. Should standardized tests be more tailored to the students’ strengths, weaknesses, and career-goals, it would be better suited to judge their knowledge of the material. The costs of standardized tests, as well as the advantages accompanied with spending more money towards test preparation, make it much easier for wealthier families to see higher scores from their students, therefore making them appear better prepared for college. Tests can cost more than $50 each, guide books steadily cost about $30, and prep classes easily extend far above $2,000.

These classes are meant to train students to be great test takers, presenting strategies to help students do well. Generally, the training works and students’ scores rise significantly. This is wonderful for some middle and high class students, but to lower-income families, it is another barrier pushing them farther into debt and farther away from success. When the tests become a competition of how much money can be spent up to give certain children an advantage, they definitely stop measuring academic abilities and start discriminating against economic situations. (Also, since preparation resources teach testing techniques, not academic material, those who can afford it are not paying for scores reflecting intellect; they are paying for scores reflecting quality of test practice.

) Should SAT, ACT, and AP tests be restricted to uniform content learned solely in school, their results could have some weight in judging what a student is able to accomplish in a given amount of time, though not necessarily the best of what they can do. Standardized tests are not as standardized as they claim. Multiple advantages are accessible through means of test taking strategy, natural talent, and economic status. The material printed in the books may mirror topics taught in schools. However, the approach one must take to accurately answer all the questions is so specific that many test takers fall out of their comfort zone and perform well below their capabilities. Overall, standardized tests are excellent judges of a student’s ability to take a standardized test, but they largely fail in the attempt to accurately and equally determine all students’ academic abilities.