The Inaccuracy of Standardized Tests


City Journal

Standardized tests are an inaccurate measure of intelligence and ability.

Noelle Wu, Photojournalist

Being a student entails taking tests on a regular basis. Standardized tests are commonly misconceptualized as an entirely accurate evaluation of every student. However, the constant routine of taking tests begs the question of if standardized tests are actually a good measure of intelligence and ability. 

First, standardized tests do not demonstrate intellect. The illustration that they present is how effectively a student can retain or cram material that is most likely forgotten immediately after the test is taken. Furthermore, strategies may also be learned for specific tests – more often than not, prep courses for specific exams may observe a pattern in the answer choices of a test. The student may be aided with the knowledge of what to look for in the choices instead of actually applying their intellect to the test. Since so many tests have already been created with these patterns, it would be difficult for society to unlearn this knowledge and shift away from it. Simply stated, achievement on standardized reading examinations is typically predicated on tactics that are not employed in everyday reading. “Test-wise” kids, for example, develop methods that are primarily useful while completing multiple choice problems. The ensuing exam scores give the impression that these students are better readers than they are.

A true measure of intellect should be determined through much more than long exams that take hours.”

— Jesse Lee (9)

Second, anxiety and stress can be an obstacle when taking tests. Some students may perform better on tests because they can sit down and focus on the test. Other students may face difficulties in focusing or may be anxious, which can reflect on what other people’s perceptions of their intellect are. In brief, there are such people as good test takers and bad test takers, and more often than not, this does not have any correlation with one’s range of aptitudes and intellect. 

Getting a low standardized test score can prompt students into feeling incompetent and futile. When the major testing devices do not recognize or reward essential aptitudes, it discourages students from developing them. Yet, the decision is made unconsciously when academic excellence is the precise expression of standardized testing. Enhancing schools and learning would require ongoing monitoring for misuse of test data as well as an examination of the objectives of the test. The broad range of skill sets in a child and engagement should be equally valued to test results. 

Jesse Lee (9), a student at Yorba Linda High School remarks, “Standardized testing has always been about memorization and how to pick the answer based on what the other answers are. A true measure of intellect should be determined through much more than long exams that take hours.” It is essential that society must go beyond the restricted concept of scholastic aptitude that is implicit in standardized testing. Having primarily traditional testing in schools has made it more difficult to assist children in becoming more aware of abilities that they can develop in areas where they are most likely to feel fulfilled and successful.