Are standardized tests really accurate at determining intelligence?

Amanda Kiel, News Editor

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For as long as we can remember, we have been subject to take certain standardized tests, like the NJ-SLA, the PARCC, or NJASK. Have you ever questioned the purpose and effects of these tests? The results of standardized tests are typically used to identify high and low performing students and identify where they are having trouble. Should we really be judging our students and teachers based off of these tests?

Standardized testing is a sticky subject for many schools. In the past, most schools, including colleges, have seen standardized tests as an efficient and effective way to rank students based on their abilities. However, as our education system progresses, many are coming to believe that this one-size-fits-all style of test taking cannot possibly show every student’s unique abilities or intelligence. 

One positive effect of standardized testing is that schools, teachers, parents, and students alike can see where a student is in terms of meeting certain benchmarks. This is helpful because students can compare themselves to others in their level and determine where they need improvement. In some eyes, though, this is a negative, causing a lot of stress in high school students because of this comparison to their peers. Even top colleges, such as the University of Rochester, do not require SAT or ACT scores anymore because they feel “well-constructed tests don’t lead to better decisions, and the cost to students having to take and submit those extra exams outweighs any benefits” (rochester.edu). 

Taking these tests can be a significant financial burden for students. Not only does it cost $47.50 to take the SAT once, but students have to pay extra fees to take the essay portion and submit their scores to colleges. On top of this, many spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on expensive prep books and classes to prepare for the test. The students who do not have the resources to do these things are at a significant disadvantage, which unwittingly targets low income students. 

Although this may seem like a discriminatory system because of its costs and questions, many see this as a good thing. If every student is tested and graded in the same way, then the scores are objective. However, this does not take other factors into account like anxiety and distractions. Some students are very intelligent, but their test taking abilities are poor. 

The nature of standardized testing can also invoke certain sentiments in teachers and students that the purpose of learning and teaching is to do well on these tests. When teachers teach for the purpose of achieving certain test scores, education becomes less individual to the student and potentially less interesting. However, traditional educational systems still believe that harsh benchmarks on certain topics are beneficial for trying to bring all students to the same level. 

At the end of the day, standardized testing is not going away anytime soon. Because of its seemingly objective nature, schools will continue to use standardized tests to determine the intelligence of their students. Schools should take these test scores with a grain of salt and continue to focus on other aspects of students because no student is made equal.