Monday, April 8, 2013

Standardized Testing

As a student, I have a love-hate relationship with standardized tests. They have become an important indicator of my future and will continue to be a heavy part of my education. Standardized testing starts as early as 5th grade. Students at this age take State standardized tests to measure their potential for advanced classes and to measure teacher performance. From then, the tests grow importance, from just a measure of progress to a deciding factor of college acceptance. I can honestly say that my most stressful educational experience was taking the ACT. As a junior in high school, they canceled class for all other grades and had the juniors test in a silent school for an entire day. Not only was the environment scary, but the rules, directions, and pencil requirements made me afraid to cough. It was enough pressure to take the test alone, never mind the fact that my results from this test would determine a heavy weight of my acceptance to my dream college. My parents, friends, and teachers spent the entire year talking about the scores and all they would determine. Once the time came to take the test, I realized I had spent more time studying what score I needed to get than actually studying for the test. But, studying for standardized tests is another issue. Many of the tests are national tests, and each curriculum differs in the nation. Due to this, my teachers explained that there is a possibility that you may not have learned 30% of the material discussed in any national test. So, I started studying everything I could. I took around 50 practice exams for the ACT and still saw no progress. This is when I decided that I would sign up for a class designed for the ACT. I wrote off three hours of my Saturday for a month and showed up to this class that I was expecting to teach me all of the 30% of information I had not learned. Strangely enough, the class was not based on information, but on test-taking strategy. Instead of learning the test information, I learned how to take a standardized test using time-saving techniques, process of elimination, guessing advantages, and other strategies. 

This is when I realized that the standardized test was not only a measure of my knowledge, but a test of my ability to take a test. I associated this with unfairness. It was not fair that these tests would put information I had never seen before in front of me and if I did not know how to divide my guesses correctly, I would be set up for failure. But, after taking the class my practice scores had increased substantially and I began to like the tricks to finding the right answer. These tips and tricks were not only beneficial to standardized tests, but also regular everyday tests. Regardless of the unfairness, I used the tips and they worked. I was lucky enough to rock out my ACT and get the score that got me accepted into all of my dream schools. My parents were happy with me, my friends were excited for me, and I loved my ACT results. This is where the love-hate relationship settled. I took a test filled with information that I had never seen before, along with information I had, and used techniques designed for test-taking to excel in my educational dreams. What if I had not taken that ACT prep class? Would I have still scored this high? Does my preparation put me at an unfair advantage? What if my friends who are smarter than me got lower scores because of the pressure? I understand that college acceptance is based off of many aspects, but I will continue to question the accuracy and necessity of a standardized test to measure a student’s capability to perform. I do not feel that the amount of pressure these tests puts on students give them any additional advantages.

Standardized tests have been a part of my education every step of the way and will continue to be as I go into a master’s program at my University. I understand the importance of measuring the intelligence of students, but I will always question the accuracy of standardized tests.

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