How Well Are Standardized Tests Measuring Our Abilities?

Cass Golden October 17, 2017

All around the globe students take some sort of standardized test, at some point in their lifetime, for a multitude of reasons. Some of the most popular standardized tests include the SATs and the ACTs, which are used to help determine if a student is fit for the intensive curriculum that they will face in college. Specifically in Massachusetts, students in third grade through tenth grade engage in MCAS testing, which is short for Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System. Each standardized test is different from the next, but they all serve the same general purpose- determining how much information each student has retained during their years of schooling, and how well they can apply it after not using it for a period of time.

        The results of standardized tests not only show how smart students are, for lack of a better word, but they are used for many other things such as a way to receive scholarship money, a way to get into college, as well as many other things. The question is though, is that are these tests the correct way to demonstrate what students are capable of? I think not.

        First of all, the biggest reason I believe these tests are not the best way to showcase a student’s intelligence is because thousands of students suffer from test anxiety. “Test anxiety is a psychological condition in which people experience extreme distress and anxiety in testing situations…[and] can actually impair learning and hurt performance.” ( Throughout the years of being in school, students have so much pressure put on them to do well on tests as small as science or math, so I can only imagine how much pressure they endure for the high stakes testing. All that pressure to do well is too much for some students, which can lead to them freezing up, and forgetting everything they know. In the long run, they’re afraid of failing. They may be the smartest kid in their class, but they’re mental block is preventing them from being able to show that on the tests. However, in less stressful situations like every day life, where they know they’re not being tested, the students are able to do well, which just goes to show that these tests are not a good option for seeing how well a student can perform.

        Additionally, some students are better in some subjects than they are in others, and these tests limit student’s ability to showcase their intelligence for that reason as well. Most standardized tests in the US only test in the areas of English Language Arts and Math, except MCAS which has a Biology test that’s given in ninth grade. For the students who excel more in subjects such as science, history, or even foreign language, they are at a disadvantage because tests for those subjects are few and far between. Sure, ELA and math are probably the subjects you’re going to need most in the real world, but if the tests are designed to show the progress of students between the years, then only testing in two subject areas is not ideal.

        To go along with that, higher test scores might be more achievable if students were allowed to pick a predetermined number of tests in subjects they feel they do the best in. If a student knows they don’t do well in a subject they are being tested in, it’s going to instantly lower their motivation and self-esteem, and have the “I know I’m not going to do well, so why even try,” mindset. On the contrary though, if a student got to choose which subjects they were tested in, it would help boost their morale and would more likely than not, raise their test scores.

        Overall, the times have changed so much since these tests were introduced, so they are a little outdated. I don’t know what it was like back then, but I presume that the main focuses of school were English and Math, which is why standardized tests are only testing in those areas for the most part. However, through the years other subjects have become more popular, allowing student’s interests to become more diverse.

        It’s really not only me who believes standardized test are not an accurate representation of what students can do either, because even colleges are starting to look less at the scores when considering applicants. On the Salem State University website they included, “As part of a growing national movement, eliminating standardized tests from admission requirements allows Salem State to attract more students who are academically qualified based on their high school course selection and GPA, but perhaps did not score well on the SAT/ACT.”

        In conclusion, standardized tests are just no longer an adequate way to see what students are capable of based on what they’ve learned throughout the years. The tests are outdated and prevent some students from being able to show their intelligence by only testing in two subject areas. The times are different know and what we learn and focus on in school has changed, so so should the tests.