For years, standardized testing has been a preferred method among our education system to measure and compare student knowledge. Whether it be for college admission purposes or the determination of a student passing their grade, standardized testing indeed plays a prominent role in a student’s school career. However, are these tests really effective? Are they really reliable indicators of a student’s overall knowledge? Especially considering that information recall, which is the main focus in a standardized test, is not the only factor in a student’s intelligence?

Despite standardized testing being a preferred method of measuring student knowledge, it is not effective as it does not take other aspects of student intelligence into account and is prioritized over other activities and skills.

What Is Standardized Testing?

A standardized test consists of questions, mainly multiple-choice and true-or-false, that are scored in a standard way.  Resultantly, multiple tests can be scored in a consistent, non-biased manner by artificial intelligence. This produces a set of test performance data that can easily be compared and measured with other regions, allowing educators to get an idea of overall student achievement. Standardized testing is commonly used in an educational setting for college admission purposes, to measure student achievement over a school year or to determine what a student may be good at in the future. Colleges can use these test scores to get an idea of how qualified a prospective applicant may be, and educators can use student test scores to determine areas of achievement and areas where improvement is needed. Therefore, standardized testing is a preferred method when measuring student knowledge as it is easy to measure, compare, and utilize.

Flaws Of Standardized Testing

However, because of its unbiased nature, standardized testing mainly focuses on a student’s ability to retain learned information. It does not necessarily pick up on other aspects of student intelligence, such as critical thinking or creativity. These two traits go hand in hand and are much more complex than simple information recall because they require a much deeper thought process. These skills can also benefit students in the real world because they are relevant in multiple disciplines.

Although some argue that the unbiased nature of standardized tests helps them to be consistently scored and compared by artificial intelligence, bias is needed to pick up on aspects of intelligence that don’t have much to do with information recall that a computer, devoid of emotions, cannot identify. The unbiased nature of standardized testing is undoubtedly one of its flaws.

Standardized Testing Preparation

Along with its inaccuracies in measuring knowledge, students are also encouraged and even pressured to study hard and to actively prepare for standardized tests. Educators must spend a decent amount of time preparing their students as well. With so much time set aside for learning the content and system of an anticipated standardized test, there is not much time for students to focus on other skills apart of their intelligence, such as art, literature, and creative and critical thinking.

Furthermore, many educators end up “teaching to the test”, meaning that the majority of their instruction focuses solely on preparation for an upcoming standardized test. While this may improve students’ test performances, teaching to the test instruction leaves children with less time to focus on other skills and activities. They are preparing for the test, but they are not preparing or learning anything outside of it that may be important for them to know in the real world.

This could also leave students with a narrow scope of the world—knowing enough to pass the test, but not enough to truly benefit them in the long run. According to Professor Hani Morgan of the University of Southern Mississippi, “learning based on memorization and recall may improve student performance on tests, but fails to develop higher-level thinking skills”. This proves that active standardized testing preparation can negatively affect a student’s quality of education.

What Can We Do To Create Change?

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, many students have had to take the SAT and ACT tests in a non-traditional setting—online and at home. This has caused some colleges and universities to change their SAT/ACT score requirement to optional. Some even acknowledged that statistically, standardized testing is not an accurate source to determine how well a student will perform in college.

While the altering of the SAT/ACT testing requirement is a good start in improving our education system, we should also redirect our focus on other indicators of student intelligence, such as creativity and critical thinking. To do this, students should be encouraged to find and follow their passions and to work to become exemplary in their desired fields. Schools should set aside more time for students to hone their skills and explore other passions outside of the structured curriculum. This will surely create more devoted, talented, and passionate leaders for generations to come.

While standardized testing can be used at times for measuring achievement in certain areas, it should not be the main focus in determining student intelligence. Rather, it should just be a part of it.