Tests: Thoughts on Standardized Testing

This blog post is a little different. Rather than talk about a major event in my life, I want to highlight something that is not only important to me, but to many other students and individuals out there. Standardized testing produces angst, but also reaps joy and happiness when results come back. But are they truly worth it?

 

My Thesis

The question of the value of standardized testing has reached an all-time peak. Recent news involving testing scandals and affirmative action cases have reached to the core of education as a whole, that of integrity and honesty. Ardent supporters of standardized testing including figurehead leaders and corporations like CollegeBoard and the ACT discuss the “objectivity” of standardized testing or its capability of “ranking and measuring” student (and thereby teacher) performance. Yet others would blaspheme such arguments. As a student, in the midst of applying to college, top summer programs, and some of the most prestigious clubs and academic societies, I know the utmost importance of standardized testing and its impact upon my application. However, I believe that though the value of standardized testing is unduly important, it is subservient to other critical student measurements, such as extracurricular activities including sports and after-school clubs, because standardized tests merely provide a starting point but does not represent a whole picture of a student’s academic profile, and standardized tests are simply not for everyone. Therefore, I take the stance that standardized testing is valuable, but not imperative.

 

 

Academic Profiles

Standardized testing is not everything, and, in fact, many colleges and universities know this. Top-tier private schools such as Stanford, MIT, and the Ivy’s including Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, implement a holistic approach for applicant review. This means that a simple “bad” SAT score doesn’t necessarily kick you out of admissions, appeasing both sides of the coin of standardized testing. That being said, standardized testing can, in itself, be a decider. For example, students in the lone star state of Texas get guaranteed admissions into top-state schools like the University of Texas-UT Austin and Texas A&M when their SAT score or GPA is above a certain threshold, guaranteeing students a quality post-secondary education. Thus, in this case, we clearly see the beneficial aspect of standardized testing in some students’ lives. But what about students who are underrepresented or school districts that lack funds? What about students who simply don’t have the textbook and online resources to score well on the SAT? Indeed, this is what happened to a close friend, her SAT score was “low” as she didn’t have the resources to study. Yet she was still proactive in numerous activities including the National Honor Society and an avid researcher in environmental engineering. Thus, though standardized testing may act as a number or label, it is merely a starting point. It shouldn’t be said that a 1480 on the SAT, which is what my friend got, means you won’t get into Stanford; a student should still have a chance! And I’m happy to see many colleges move towards a holistic approach. Standardized testing is simply not everything.

 

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Definitely Not For Everyone

Secondly, standardized tests are not for everyone. Not everyone can sit in a classroom for four hours and expect to do well on a multiple choice test that is designed to trick you in every possible way. I remember the countless hours of studying problem after problem, answer choice after answer choice when preparing for my SAT; it is clearly not the case that everyone can do standardized testing. Yet not everyone that does poorly on standardized testing fail in life. Take Steve Jobs, for example, acclaimed for co-founding Apple. In high school, he had C’s in all of his classes. How is it that one of the most disruptive innovators in the planet is being proclaimed “below average” by standardized tests in classrooms? Clearly, there is some fallacy in the testing system. Yet it should also be said that indeed those who do score well tend to do well in the future. Take researchers and Ph.D. students, without doing well on the GMAT (the graduate-level standardized test), they would not be able to present their research in English or even do notable research! Again, we clearly see the nuanced relationship that standardized testing is not for everyone. In addition, classrooms are changing. It’s not about taking tests, but about presenting final projects. How do we cope with such change? Therefore, standardized testing merely provides a basis. Yes, it is of critical value, but it isn’t priceless.

So Where To?

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In conclusion, standardized testing is important for student performance and college admissions, but it is not as important as many other features and attributes that define a student. Standardized testing is ONLY a platform from which to build on, not the whole rocket ship. It is also not for everyone, indeed the most disruptive innovators often failed standardized tests. It is fruitful, however, to begin seeing colleges take this stance. The SAT isn’t everything anymore and places like Stanford value more leadership skills than an exam score, community service more than a numeric value. Those who score 1400s and 1450s on the SAT can get into top-tier programs and those with 1570s and 1580s can get in as well. Remember my friend who got a 1480? Well, she got into Stanford despite the SAT average being 1530. Standardized testing isn’t everything, it’s merely the tip of the iceberg of the life of a student. Each student is unique and valued beyond just a number or score. That’s what truly makes education amazing and what makes every student priceless.

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