What Do Standardized Tests Measure and Why Take Them?

What does standardized testing measure

Flickr user Jamie

Standardized testing is a highly debated topic. Many question its accuracy in assessing the true abilities and potential of students.

Regardless, standardized tests still carry significant weight in the college admissions process. So the question remains: What exactly are standardized tests, and why take them?

What is Standardized Testing?

A standardized test is when students answer the same questions under uniform conditions. They are often made up of multiple-choice questions. They are administered either on paper or digitally. These tests, like the ACT and SAT, measure a student’s strengths and weaknesses. They typically focus on mathematics, reading, and language. Standardized tests are intended to give an accurate, unbiased measure of a student’s knowledge and skills.

Are Standardized Tests Beneficial?

Standardized testing has been scrutinized. Still, it has remained widely prevalent in the United States for several reasons:

  • They give schools the ability to assess areas where students excel or struggle.
  • They help teachers identify and address knowledge gaps in specific subjects.
  • They allow administrators to see if teachers require additional training.
  • They create a common benchmark for comparing students from diverse backgrounds.
  • They promote uniformity in curriculum development across schools nationwide.
  • Objective scoring from a computer eliminates potential biases.
  • They are used as indicators of college and career readiness.

Several studies have been done to determine whether standardized tests, such as the ACT or SAT, make a difference in a student’s success. The results have been generally inconclusive.

Criticisms of Standardized Testing

Many argue that standardized tests are inaccurate. They also claim these tests are ineffective at gauging what students actually know. Some common criticisms of standardized testing include:

  • Test anxiety and stress. These tests come with high pressure. Because of that, many students experience anxiety and stress. This can make successful students doubt themselves and their abilities, impacting their self-esteem.
  • Limited measure of intelligence. Evidence for SAT scoring shows that socioeconomic background, rather than grade level, is the biggest predictor of how well a student will perform on a test.
  • Excessive testing. Studies have shown that students take an average of 112 standardized tests during their K-12 education. This may be taking time away from learning about other subjects.
  • Lack of useful data. Some educators argue that standardized tests do not provide valuable insights. They claim that they already know which students are struggling. As a result, they may feel that the tests do not offer any new or useful information.

The Importance of Testing Scores in College Admissions

Standardized test scores are still important in the many college admissions processes. They hold weight for several reasons:

  • Standardized measure. Test scores offer a standardized way to compare students from different educational backgrounds. This helps admissions committees assess academic readiness.
  • Predictability: These scores provide insights into a student’s potential to succeed in college.
  • Decision-making tool. Admissions committees use ACT/SAT scores to make informed admittance decisions. This gives high-scoring students a competitive advantage.
  • Academic benchmark. Colleges use test scores to maintain standards. They also help colleges select students who are proficient in core subjects like math, reading, and writing.
  • Merit-based aid. Higher scores can qualify students for merit-based scholarships. This can ease the financial burden of college.

Why You Should Still Take Standardized Tests (Even If They’re Not Required)

Many colleges still use test scores as a factor when evaluating applications. These are “test-required” schools. If you’re applying to one, it will be beneficial for you to take the tests.

Some colleges have “test-flexible” policies, while others don’t consider test scores at all. If you apply to these types of colleges, you may choose not to take the ACT and SAT.

ACT and SAT scores are important but they’re just one part of your overall profile. Colleges also consider your academic achievements, extracurricular involvement, and personal qualities when making admissions decisions.

Want to see how your ACT and SAT scores affect your acceptance odds to any 4-year college in the U.S.? Check out College Raptor’s FREE College Match tool!

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