Is Standardized Testing Really Doing its Job?


High schoolers, better than anyone, understand the stress associated with standardized testing: from SATs and ACTs to Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) exams, testing seems to never end.

Supporters of standardized testing claim that these exams allow students to be compared on a similar skill level across different schools. By using these tests as a benchmark, many believe that they are essential to the  education system of not only our country, but many others around the world.

However, despite the minimal benefits associated with it, standardized testing is actually not beneficial for the education system and students. Research has shown that standardized testing has not been doing its job as it…

  1. Is an inaccurate measure of student performance – Standardized testing examines students on the wrong type of skills. Rather than focusing on the learning process or effort, these exams only test students on how well they can memorize information or have mastered the specific types of questions on the tests.
  2. Has not caused an increase in student achievement – The National Research Council on May 26, 2011 stated, “Despite using them for several decades, policymakers and educators do not yet know how to use test-based incentives to consistently generate positive effects on achievement and to improve education.” This statement is further marked by the US’s global ranking in math scores, placing 38 out of 71 other countries in math scores and 24 in science, according to the Pew Research Center.
  3. Causes teachers to “teach to the test” – Because teacher bonuses and evaluations depend so much on test scores, teachers are providing  less time and attention teaching subjects that aren’t necessarily covered in the standardized exams. These subjects include the sciences, social sciences, and the arts. As a result, many students may have difficulty discovering subjects that they are passionate about and interested in pursuing as schools are less likely to encourage these other subjects.
  4. Mostly features multiple-choice questions – Because tests like the SAT and ACT don’t have any short answer or response questions, they are not a true gauge of a student’s intelligence. Multiple choice questions make the learning very restrictive, and rather, open-ended questions allow students to display critical thinking skills and ability, something that standardized exams lack.

Although, currently, there isn’t an effective and true measure of student intelligence, one thing is for sure: standardized testing isn’t the solution.