In existence in the American education system since the mid-1800s, Standardized Assessment Tests (SATs) have proved to be controversial since their establishment. The original goal of these exams was to assess whether a pupil had reached the expected level for their age, in which the “expected” eventually became the standard. It has been argued that standardized tests such as the SATs and the American College Test, or the ACTs, have built the foundation for the many different kinds of assessments that are needed in today’s education system. However, the efficiency of determining one’s capabilities through these examinations has been questionable from the start.
Today, standardized test scores are one of the primary parameters that college admission offices use in order to determine whether or not a student is academically suited for a school. Proponents of these exams argue that they are a fair and objective measure of student achievement. However, I believe that standardized test scores are neither fair nor objective, and are an unreliable source of determining a student’s academic capabilities due to the various differences and setbacks that students may face regarding the exams, especially those that have nothing to do with academics.
Primarily, standardized testing is expensive and favors those who are financially capable. With a registration fee of $54.50 for the SAT test including the essay, and a score report fee of an additional $11.25 per report, the average student will spend close to $200 a year on taking the test alone, if they wish to take it multiple times. Since colleges will accept the highest score a student receives, this gives an unfair leeway to students who are more financially capable, leaving those who are unable to pay for the test more that once or twice at a disadvantage. Furthermore, private SAT tutoring can range anywhere from $125 a session, to close to $200 per 50 minutes. If there are two students with the same IQ, same GPA, and the same academic capabilities, but one of them is financially capable of affording a quality SAT tutor for multiple sessions, that student will end up having an unfairly better chance at doing well on the SATs than the other.
Next, standardized testing causes excess stress and anxiety in students. From hours spent studying for the SATs or ACTs, along with trying to focus on school work, standardized testing can be overwhelming for many students, causing them to not test well or get a lower score than they naturally would on an exam. Because of how much weight is put on standardized test scores for a student’s future, the exam becomes more than just an aptitude test, but a determining factor. Thus, many students find it harder to test well when taking the SATs or ACTs, and in turn, their scores do not correlate with their GPA and academic capabilities.
Lastly, when preparing for these exams, students are learning on a “teach to test” rather than a “teach to learn” basis, in that their preparation for the test focuses on test-taking tricks and the confined amount of curriculum that is involved with these exams, rather than the broad-based knowledge that the education system involves, or should involve, entirely. In this, standardized tests such as the SATS and the ACTs are only reflective of a small portion of the curriculum that students learn, and only measure a small portion of what makes education meaningful. According to late education researcher Gerald W. Bracey, PhD, qualities that standardized tests cannot measure include “creativity, critical thinking, resilience, motivation, persistence, curiosity, endurance, reliability, enthusiasm, empathy, self-awareness, self-discipline, leadership, civic-mindedness, courage, compassion, resourcefulness, sense of beauty, sense of wonder, honesty, [and] integrity.” Standardized testing focuses on a very narrow-range of academics and test taking skills, rather than the many qualities that make a capable and quality student.
Standardized testing, although a crucial aspect of today’s education system, is an unfair assessment of the quality of a student and their academic capabilities. It poses unequal opportunity based on financial differences and setbacks between students, causes excess stress and anxiety that can lead to lower test scores, and assesses solely on a narrow portion of curriculum, abandoning the other many important aspects that make up a competent student.