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Pros and Cons of Standardized Testing

Kundan Pandey Apr 11, 2020
The educational system in the United States has been using standardized tests to evaluate the performance of students. However, there has been an ongoing debate among scholars, parents, and teachers on the effectiveness of these tests. Go through this following story to know more about the pros and cons of standardized tests.
Standardized testing is a type of exam that assesses the student's capability on the basis of multiple choice questions (MCQ's). These tests, most often, don't involve any theory-based papers/projects or documentation works, though a few institutions also include essay papers in grading candidates.
Generally, the student is provided four or five options per question and he/she is expected to choose one correct answer amongst the five options. In certain cases, there may be more than one correct answer.
Some of the standardized tests that are very popular for admission in the U.S. are:
◀ Scholastic Assessment Test Examinations (SAT)
◀ Graduate Management Aptitude Tests (GMAT)
◀ Law School Admission Testing Program (LSAT)
◀ Medical College Admission Tests (MCAT)
◀ California Achievement Tests (CAT)
◀ Stanford Achievement Test (SAT) 
◀ Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS)
◀ Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale
The standardized tests are evaluated by a computer, which reduces the risk of human error. Most of the institutions have a computer adaptive response system that scans the answer paper of the candidate and produces the score within minutes. Only the writing part (if any) of the standardized tests is checked by an examiner.
After George Bush, the former president of the U.S. announced the 'No Child Left Behind Act' in 2003, cities in the U.S. have started using standardized tests as a major part of their educational curriculum.


Supporters of standardized tests believe that these tests are highly accountable and reliable as they judge the candidates on a common platform across states and nations. The reason given by the supporters of this testing methodology is the disparity in the educational patterns and curriculum throughout the United States.
For instance, a teacher in Massachusetts has a different teaching style based on the syllabus, whereas, a teacher in Texas has another style. So, if individual assessment is provided for the students, it may lead to large differences in the grades and percentages. Which is why, a common exam like standardized testing is considered a better option.
Furthermore, the application of computers in checking the optical mark recognition (OMR) sheets make these tests completely unbiased. This is a very crucial factor that is raised by the standardized testing supporters.
When the human element is involved in the correction process, it is highly probable that some bias is bound to occur as different people/teachers have different points of view.


Standardized testing is opposed by various scholars for being a mechanical way of judging a student's ability. Educationists say that since learning is not uni-dimensional, memorizing facts, learning certain steps, and then just marking an answer does not display many other facets of a student's capabilities.
For instance, how will a standardized test determine the creativity of the child? How will a certain score prove that the child is good at one subject and bad in another? Just on the basis of a score, is it logical to assume that a student is not capable of shining in a certain course?
Often, a fixed syllabus is circulated in schools and colleges and the teachers stick to a monotonous method of just completing the syllabus and teaching only the required topics. This hinders an in-depth learning of the subject by the students.
Many people say that though the answers are checked by computers, in their inception they are made by a teacher who may be from a white or black population. So, what if the questions are made according to the teaching styles of a particular state? Won't that lead to a bias?
It has been observed that racial minorities have not been able to perform well in standardized tests. However, it has also been found that Asian origin students have performed better in standardized tests. So, this argument remains a vague perception. The success of the schools is dependent on the performance of their students.
Federal funds are given only to those schools that perform well. This adds extra pressure on public schools to constantly evaluate their performance, which often leads to unhealthy competition among the schools. The impacts of standardized tests on high school students has evoked a mixed response.
Strict schedule and a tough screening process prove to be a torture for some students, though some adapt easily to the tests. Moreover, these tests have been found to reduce group activities among students. Since the students spend a lot of time preparing for standardized tests, they therefore skip their daily activities of playing and exercising.
There has been a misconception that students with learning disabilities, such as dyslexia perform poorly in standardized tests. However, the fact is that disabled kids have performed better when they were provided with necessary support and motivation. Standardized tests are recommended by some and disregarded by others.

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However, the fact is that every student goes through these tests sometime or the other in his/her academic career.