By Dongjin Scott Seo
SAT. ACT. TOEFL. IELTS.
Those are all examples of standardized testing. It is the most used method of testing today. The number of standardized tests has been increasing in the past decade to the point where it overwhelms the students.
One reason why it’s so popular is because it’s easy. It has a universal answer sheet, the same marking scheme, and one test.
At a first glance, it is easy to come to a conclusion that it is fair – everybody gets the same content and time. Same questions, same content, and the same answers. Standardized testing focuses on uniformity instead of creativity; it favors the same answers and the same process to get to these answers, and punishes any answers that were not marked as an answer before. The examiners even look for the same process to get an answer.
Not only can it limit a student’s thought, it can, often times, limit people’s chance to study entirely. Tests such as SAT and ACT are essential in order to apply for universities in the United States. The registration fee alone for SAT costs over $50, however, that is not the worst part; to get a decent score on SAT, taking SAT courses and solving SAT workbooks are necessities. And those costs may vary greatly from free to a few thousand dollars. Some may argue that it’s not really a necessity, but if you consider the nature of standardized testing, which is highly formulated and technique heavy, you may be a thousand steps behind others when taking the test without these necessities. Also, if you don’t have an American passport but want to go to colleges in the States, an extra $50 is needed for TOEFL or other language tests.
Don’t get me wrong, standardized testing is still advantageous in many aspects, especially in measuring progress and comparing students’ general achievements. On the other hand, it’s too “general”; different individuals excel at different tasks. Thus, it may be unfair to give everybody the same content – some may be lucky to be good at a question and some may not be.
It does not reflect individual’s specialty or excellence on a given topic.
On second thought, having the same content may not be fair at all. As a student going to an international school, we are expected to learn in English, which is not the native language to most of the students. Yet, the tests come in English and English only. As a result, students oftentimes hit the language barrier head-first and fail to perform to their fullest.
However, with all these criticisms and flaws, standardized testing still thrives as there is no competition to its ability in comparing students’ ability. This may be good for lazy examiners who can differentiate students by hitting a button to ‘sort by descending score’. However, this creates massive competition and stress. As a person living in the 21st century, it is not hard to find information about stress’s effect on education and performance; studies show that effect of stress on students can be difficulties concentrating, irritative behavior, and sleep disturbances.
With the standardized testing constantly stressing the students out, limiting their potential and learning, it may be about the time to find an alternative assessment method, perhaps a consistent assessment on certain criteria of the student’s expertise, which would allow a variety of students to excel and show their speciality and improvement over time.