Opinions on Standardized Testing

Photo by Nguyen Dang Hoang Nhu on Unsplash

Today, every American high school student knows what the “SAT” and “AP” are, and the importance of the tests in determining their future. The SAT is a nationwide exam that measures a student’s relative critical thinking skills in math and English, while the AP exams measure a student’s relative knowledge and skills in a particular subject. Both tests are critical factors in the college admissions process and are examples of standardized testing, a practice many people today argue over regarding its effectiveness in measuring one’s capabilities for colleges.

In my opinion, the major and fundamental problem with the SAT and AP is that the problem types are too “standardized” and predictable such that problems are often reused from different exams in the past. As a result, understanding the types of questions tested beforehand is a great advantage. The most obvious consequence of this is that it encourages students to focus on the exam FORMAT itself and exam style questions instead of focusing on purely LEARNING the information for one’s own good. To me, this inherently goes against the purpose of standardized testing. Here’s a similar situation/analogy: You shouldn’t “study” for an IQ test, otherwise your intelligence score is meaninglessly inflated, because you elevated yourself on what should be an even-playing field by familiarizing yourself with the test format. In other words, the test is supposed to be administered in a manner in which the participants are seeing what the question types are for the first time. 

Furthermore, the SAT and AP has accelerated the rise of a now-mature and profitable industry of SAT/AP Preparation books, courses, classes, and companies (such as “The Princeton Review”). The existence of such an industry is that it is not only a disadvantage to those without financial resources, especially when in-person prep courses can cost an astronomical fee to those with the median American income, but this also encourages overspending time and effort into studying standardized tests themselves, instead of time and money that could be spent pursuing extracurricular, or things such as a passion or hobby, which is what high school SHOULD be about. The idea of studying for a paper exam that takes three hours of your life and would be meaningless 10 years in the future, rather than learning skills you would forever be using in your job or passion later in life is a ridiculous one. Yet, with so much importance placed on standardized testing, it is understandable why people (including myself) are forced to do so.

In a similar manner, I’d like to point out that in AP exams, the purpose is to show your ability to understand college level courses as well as to highlight your passions and interests. The problem is that the more courses you take, the better you stand out. As a result, to stand out, students believe and are correct in thinking they have to show well-roundedness in every subject, including those they have zero passion in, wasting further time and effort.

All in all, I believe many students including myself find inherent flaws within the standardized testing system. Although, of course, it would be wrong for me to say that standardized testing isn’t correlated to a student’s capabilities; however, they should play a lot smaller role in college admissions, and even if that doesn’t change, both parents and students need to spend a lot less time worrying or spending all their time and energy on it. 

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