A standardized test (SAT) requires answering the questions or a set of questions from a common group in the same manner and is scored in a coherent “standard” manner. These tests might facilitate equity by contributing to the admissions of students due to their cognitive skills and personal achievements. However, they might also promote the destruction of equity by giving benefits to some groups of students over others for different reasons. Standardized tests do not accurately represent a student’s intelligence or academic performance. Extensive research has revealed that standardized tests are based mostly on the student’s ability to pursue college than their aptitude.
Defining the Issue
Such a test enables us to compare the relative efficiency of the individual or a group of students. According to Sternberg, traditional standardized tests relate to “varied kinds of performances on life tasks, but not at an impressive level of magnitude” (77). The standardized tests usually emphasize memory-based and analytical skills, for instance, the SAT evaluates as well vocabulary, analysis of reading passages, and solution of mathematics problems. Consequently, there is a moderate interaction between test scores and socioeconomic status. Furthermore, standardized tests are the primary tool for school systems as they are considered a reliable indicator of student ability.
A typical standardized examination assesses a student’s knowledge base in an academic domain, such as “science, reading, or mathematics” (Sievertsen et al. 2621). Its broad application is based upon two fundamental presumptions, such as the belief that standardized tests are designed objectively, without bias, and that they accurately evaluate a student’s academic knowledge. The following analysis argues that standardized tests do not provide accurate metrics of educational effectiveness, which challenges the popular assumptions about them.
Standardized Tests on Student’s Ability to Pursue College
One of the most common factors that affect the standardized testing results is the student anxiety examined by Brown. It is a type of state anxiety peculiar to testing situations, which influences the student’s academic performance and, therefore, test outcomes. As a result, student anxiety impedes the standardized test score that is considered as an “accurate reflection of academic knowledge and skill” (Brown 3).
One of the studies examined a change in students’ anxiety as it raises from classroom testing to high stakes testing such as standardized tests. A group of 335 elementary-aged students participated in the study. The researchers’ data was based upon two scales, such as the Children’s Test Anxiety Scale and the Behavior Assessment Scale for Children. They were immediately applied to the participants after they finished their high-stakes testing and were tested two weeks later after completing a general classroom test. The results demonstrated increased student anxiety caused more by standardized testing than classroom testing.
In terms of traditional educational research studies, measurement is identified as a numeric value that represents students learning, using their achievement on the large-scale standardized tests. However, the researchers keep arguing and proving that these tests do not reveal what they are assumed to disclose regarding academic scores and students’ intellectual level. Amrein-Beardsley provides five main reasons that represent standardized tests as an inaccurate indicator of students’ educational performance (106).
These include the errors inherent in standardized achievement tests that misinterpret standardized test output, the construction of standardized tests itself and their limited coverage, and the assumptions required for test scores conversions and manipulations. Furthermore, the fourth reason is a bias inherent in standardized achievement tests that confuse what test scores reflect on student learning and achievement. Ultimately, the very fact that large-scale standardized tests are not designed to measure educational effectiveness is the last but most critical reason that does not agree with standardized tests as a measure of students’ intellect.
Standardized tests were primarily developed to easily and quickly evaluate a large number of students. Multiple studies support the perspective that they are not a definite measure of students’ intellectual level or quality of education. According to Lee, these tests often “show inherent biases.” One of the research studies on poverty and achievement connection provided by Lee quantified the disparity between children from low-income and wealthier families and monitored how this disparity grows over time.
From the sociological perspective, the difference between children from families of contrasting socioeconomic status has other groundworks apart from the educational performance. Such a gap implies more than “one standard deviation on reading tests at kindergarten entry,” which equals three to six years of learning in middle or high school (Lee). Moreover, the connection between a family’s position in the distribution of income and their children’s academic performance increased significantly over the last half-century.
As an integral part of high school students, the most common standardized tests such as SAT or ACT, are critical to determining student’s readiness for college, including students’ intelligence and abilities. However, Rodriguez argues that standardized examination does not measure students’ capabilities and skills, as well as their potential for college. Rodriguez believes that the accurate measure of students’ intellect and abilities are “their high school GPA and grades.” Standardized tests are used for college admission decisions and are essential in scholarship applications. SAT is fundamental for those who are pursuing a good college and, therefore, is a determining factor in one’s future and career.
Rodriguez’s article also supports the fact that standardized tests cause severe stress among young students. It was proved that there are many smart students, however, they cannot perform properly during the test due to anxiety and stress since its results will be taken into account when applying to college. This factor, together with the pressure of timing, are both affecting students’ performance and school motivation.
Another analysis included by Rodriguez states that standardized tests measure “only a small portion of what makes education meaningful.” Such a study argues both perspectives, whether standardized tests demonstrate students’ potential for college or educational level. These tests can be used to determine only a student’s knowledge of reading, writing, mathematics, and science.
The Alternative Approach to the Standardized Testing Method
With that said, standardized examination scores are not proven as a strong basis for academic education. Lee suggests the high school GPA application as an alternative that is the core determinant of a student’s academic record at a university instead of the SAT scores. Although, despite the SAT’s numerous disadvantages that define standardized tests as not capable of examining a student’s intellectual level, they still give a standard measure of schools throughout the country. Another reason for standardized tests to remain relevant in the educational system is that there is no efficient replacement method.
For instance, it was suggested that “states can have representative samples of the population take the standardized exams rather than every single student” (Lee). In addition, the software that is promoted with the textbooks might be used to measure the advancement of students as a “stealth assessment” (Lee). This can also help to address the students’ anxiety in accomplishing an extended standardized test. Finally, schools can modify their educational systems by providing a broader range of measures as an alternative to a single test.
Another approach examines standardized tests as a measure of cognitive abilities. As described by Wai et al., SAT and ACT test scores are “reasonably good proxies” for general cognitive abilities (37).
Considering this fact, student abilities are vital sources of variance to reflect in educational contexts. Wai et al. examined this issue in the way that cognitive abilities vector can help in reasoning abilities, including highly select occupations and leadership positions. Such a perspective might facilitate reorienting the vision about literature that directly relates to education and serves as a starting point for more solid education policies to modify the educational system.
This analysis provides arguments that prove the standardized tests are not able to reflect accurately on students’ intelligence and skills. Within the significant reasons, stress and anxiety are the factors that affect SAT and ACT results the most. Moreover, such outcomes might begin to impact teachers and their academic performance. Standardized tests are not efficient in shaping one’s future and career opportunities. To conclude, the SAT is rather a reflection of how well a student can sit and endure the testing process, or the way a student can learn to trick the system. Therefore, there is no clear evidence that can allow placing the entire future of a single student on a set period of three to four-hour test.
Amrein-Beardsley, Audrey. Rethinking Value-Added Models in Education: Critical Perspectives on Tests and Assessment-Based Accountability. Routledge, 2014.
Brown, Brianna. “Negative Effects of Standardized Testing.” Capstone Projects and Master’s Theses, 2019, pp. 1-33.
Lee, Evelyn. “Standardized Tests Don’t Measure Intelligence or Ability.” Pepperdine Graphic. 2016. Web.
Rodriguez, Aryanna. “Observations: Standardized Test Scores Do Not Reflect Students’ Abilities.” The Magnet Tribune. 2018. Web.
Sievertsen, Hans Henrik, et al. “Cognitive Fatigue Influences Students’ Performance on Standardized Tests.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 113, no. 10, 2016, pp. 2621-2624.
Sternberg, Robert J. “Successful Intelligence: A Model for Testing Intelligence Beyond IQ Tests.” European Journal of Education and Psychology, vol. 8, no. 2, 2015, pp. 76-84.
Wai, Jonathan, et al. “Using Standardized Test Scores to Include General Cognitive Ability in Education Research and Policy.” Journal of Intelligence, vol. 6, no. 3, 2018, p. 37.