Are Standardized Tests the Best Form of Assessment?

by Erik Presley | January 15, 2016 | Blogs 0 Comments

For the average American student, standardized testing has become an integral part of his or her educational experience since they first started middle school. While at first, they gave little thought as to what these scores would mean for them, students begin to realize, especially when confronted with the ACT or SAT that their score on a single test could determine if they get an acceptance letter from their dream university or whether they have to settle with a college that is much lower on their list. With all that is riding on a single test score, educators and students begin to ask: is standardized testing the best way of assessment?

According to Time Magazine, “The earliest record of standardized testing comes from China, where hopefuls for government jobs had to fill out examinations testing their knowledge of Confucian philosophy and poetry.” It’s plain to see that standardized testing has changed since then. However, it is clear that standardized testing is an age-old method. Our modern versions of standardized tests such as the SAT and the ACT were developed much more recently.

The SAT was developed in 1925 as the “Scholastic Aptitude Test” by the College Board. While the SAT tests of today last for hours, the initial SAT test only lasted for 90 minutes. After World War II, the SAT had become a standard for admittance into college. The SAT remained primarily unchanged for sixty years until the addition of a writing section in 2005.

After the SAT had been around for over thirty years the ACT was developed. Everett Franklin Lundquist, who also pioneered the GED test, developed the ACT in 1959. The ACT was one of the first standardized tests that would determine possible courses of study for students by inquiring about their interests. According to Time Magazine, “The SAT is geared toward testing logic, while the ACT is considered more a test of accumulated knowledge.”

While the purpose of the tests makes sense, in practice, it could be argued that they are no longer the best way of assessing students. Each student is born with a unique set of skills and they come from a diverse array of backgrounds. With that in mind, doesn’t it make sense to assess them based on those qualities? Some students could excel in Art, Music, and Theater and end up with a dismal score. On the same note, some students aren’t as adept at taking tests as others and, while they maintain the same GPA as a fellow student, may end up with a much lower score.

While the precedent is set for schools to test students with the SAT and ACT standardized tests, it could be time for a change. With the great variety in students of today, it could be time for a method of assessment that not only assesses their accumulated knowledge and logic, but also tailors the assessment to their strengths, helping demonstrate to colleges the great things they can bring to their university.


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