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Limitations of Standardized Testing in Assessing Students' Intelligence and Potential Academic Success

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I woke up one friday and noticed that the SAT was the next day. I crammed a bunch of information into my head with the fear that if I managed to fail the test, it would be impossible for me to ever get into a college, but as I was studying all these different types of subjects that I haven’t reviewed for years, I asked myself if this simple test taken by majority of Americans is really a good indicator of future college performance. Opinions on standardized testing varies between who’s doing the research, but they’re usually in favor of the SAT and ACT. Though research is still very unclear on whether the SAT does a good job at predicting college success, majority of studies show that they generally aren’t.

Before standardized testing, schools required entrance exams specific to each school be taken. These exams required people to travel to the college they desired to attend to take the exam. The College Board then formed in 1900 to administer a test that can be taken nationally without the difficulty of travelling. Many years later, in 1959, a professor at University of Iowa named Everett Franklin Lindquist introduced the ACT. He often despised the idea of testing, stating that “we must undue emphasis upon average test results, upon school-to-school and teacher-to-teacher comparisons… may cause the teacher… to neglect the interests of the pupils, and to be concerned instead with subject matter objectives and with higher average scores for their own sake’ (Lindquist). In this quote, he claims that teachers may instead neglect their students by focusing more on trying to get higher average scores instead of actually focusing on the interest of their students. This is evident in today’s society where it common for teachers to adjust their lesson plan specifically to be focused around a test. The pressure puts on students about standardized test causes them to worry and gain anxiety while taking them, and these mindsets aren’t stable enough conditions students should be tested on their knowledge in.

The conditions and environment you’re forced into while taking this test is also an unrealistic representation of knowledge. According to Jessica Weaver at Pennsylvania State University, standardized testing also doesn’t have a wide enough range of topics to accurately measure the intelligence of an individual. “In a realistic situation, you would never be trapped alone in a room without resources”, she said. “They may test whether or not you remember geometry from 10th grade, but they don’t have any real bearing on someone’s success in business school” (Weaver). In realistic situations, you’re never forced in environment to remember certain techniques and things learned many years ago. Geometry is generally taught in ninth or tenth grade which would result in the average person forgetting it by the time they’re required to take a college required test. Also, standardized test don’t test wide enough of subjects to truly measure the intelligence of the brain. Weaver argues that knowing geometry from tenth grade has no benefit for someone who is interested in being a major in business.

According to PBS, it’s impossible to measure intelligence of the complex brain with one tool like a standardized test. William Hiss, the former Dean of Admissions lead the study which claimed that “The human mind is simply so complex and so multifaceted and fluid, that trying to find a single measurement tool that will be reliable across the enormous populations of American students is simply a trip up a blind alley. I would never say the SATs and ACTs have no predictive value for anybody; they have predictive value for some people. We just don’t find them reliable cross populations” (Hiss). According to this research and study, the brain is simply too complex to being able to be measured with something as simple as a test which is another factor as to why it isn’t a good indicator of intelligence. Everyone’s brain functions differently and imports information differently. As a result, the brain also exports information differently resulting in different interest and motives.

Standardized test can also be affected by how wealthy you are. A study led by William C. Hiss, Dean of Admissions and Vice President at Bates College claimed that “Low-income students may experience financial barriers because they cannot afford expensive SAT coaching programs; students from rural areas may not have geographic access to these programs. Thus they might be less prepared to take the SATs” (Hiss). This study showed that higher income students had a higher chance of receiving greater scores on the SAT because they could afford the expensive coaching program made specifically to increase a score for standardized test. The income of a minor shouldn’t have any effect on a test intended to measure the intelligence of an individual. Though coaching programs are a good tool to strengthen and prepare students for rigorous testing, it provides an unfair advantage to students who can’t afford to access these coaching programs.

Further studies, sponsored by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, shows that poorer SAT or ACT test scores did not correlate with how well a student did within a college environment. According to the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), “Of the roughly 800 schools that are test-optional, more than 150 are ranked in the top tiers of their respective categories. You can find the entire school list at FairTest”. This proves that the SAT has no effect on whether someone will succeed or fail in college.

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According to Concordia University in Portland, “With so much riding on the results, teachers often feel compelled to teach to the tests. In some schools, less time is being spent on the sciences, social studies, and the arts to prepare students to take the tests in math, reading and writing” (The Room 241 Team). In this quote, it explains how teachers in schools began to focus more on maths and english when there is more much for students that needs to be learned. High school teachers begin to mold their lesson plans around standardized test despite the fact that standardized test don’t cover the broad range of knowledge required in a college environment. Colleges have many majors and subjects that students are required to take when attaining their degree and standardized test sometimes don’t even scratch the surface of the more rigorous and less common courses. Though some testing companies do offer multiple subject test, like the SAT Subjects Test, and the ACT, they still barely scratch the broad amount if information required to be gathered within a college environment. Though this is true, teachers still habitually mold their class around future test that student are required to take which results in students lacking in other sciences.

In a study executed by Mikayla Shamburger at Pacific University – Oregon, Shamburger states that “The SAT also tests a student’s ability to write on command in a short amount of time, given a prompt. But really, where does this become useful in college? A student’s success should not be measured by how well they can whip out an essay in 40 minutes”. In this article, Shamburger stresses the fact that the SAT, as well as other standardized test, places student in a situation that has no correlation or relations to college. Using an essay written in forty minutes to compare the success of a young student shouldn’t be a deciding factor of how a student will behave in a college environment. To create a well written essay, tools like brainstorming, planning, and drafting are required steps needed to result in the best essay possible. Despite all of this, students are still graded on their written ability with simply what they can do in forty minutes.

In an article written by Amanda Chan at Pennsylvania State University, Amanda elaborates more about how unreasonable the SAT test is, “In fact, studies have shown that high school grades are a better predictor of grades in college than an SAT score. With the national average score at 1,500 out of a possible 2,400, students are still forced to take a test that is written to trick them and prompts them to think that they cannot succeed in college”. Many studies have proven that the SAT is written to confuse the test taker, and when you look at the national average many students get almost 1,000 points less than the higher score. Acing the SAT is a rare occasion due to the fact that the test is designed for you to fail which is the complete opposite of college. College generally doesn’t contain specific algorithms and questions designed to make sure you don’t pass, instead, most classes offer free tutors, teacher’s assistants, and more useful essential tools to make sure completing college is an evitable task.

After taking the SAT, many people feel discouraged and undetermined due to the confusion and difficulty of the test. This shouldn’t be the essential goal for the test makers and instead try and offer a test that allows students to feel as though they can succeed.

In an article by Hult International Business School, they elaborate on the idea that despite some students having the same level of intelligence, their quality of education can cause them to get significantly noticeable worse scores. “Two students with relatively equal intelligence but different qualities of high school education may both take the ACT and end up with vastly different scores” (Lindsay). Students in wealthier areas with wealthier schools are most likely to succeed significantly more on standardized test because they have more resources than those in subsidized or poverty filled areas. Their intelligence can be virtually identically, but if one student had more access to other resources they’ll generally perform better due to the fact that standardized test don’t only measure intelligence, but instead measures how well a student can prepare for unrealistic situations and how well they can obtain the resources to prepare them for a situation that’s designed for them to fail.

Ultimately, the SAT and ACT test can measure many things. It can measure how well students act in stressful and pressured situations, and how well students use deductive reasonings, but there are too many factors that disqualify these test from doing what it is they’re intended to do. Measuring someone’s intelligence and how well they’ll behave in a college environment is virtually impossible because the brain is a complex structure that can’t be measured with simply a number. Higher test scores also correlate with higher income due to the fact that many students can’t afford essentials tools that aid and assist students specifically for standardized testing. Some students have the ability to study with programs like Kaplan, but these program can range anywhere from $645 to $899 which many students aren’t capable of affording. If colleges want to continue using these standardized test as heavy deciding factors of whether or not students are ready for college, the schools should consider making the test less impactful on the admissions decision and instead using it as a softcore insight on how well students behave under pressure and stress. More reasonable sources to measure a student’s intelligence, though still far from perfect, are grades accumulated over the years and how high a student’s grade point average is. These allow colleges to see years of effort instead of timed sections that were designed to cause a students to fail.

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Limitations of Standardized Testing in Assessing Students’ Intelligence and Potential Academic Success. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 6, 2023, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/limitations-of-standardized-testing-in-assessing-students-intelligence-and-potential-academic-success/
“Limitations of Standardized Testing in Assessing Students’ Intelligence and Potential Academic Success.” Edubirdie, 01 Sept. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/limitations-of-standardized-testing-in-assessing-students-intelligence-and-potential-academic-success/
Limitations of Standardized Testing in Assessing Students’ Intelligence and Potential Academic Success. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/limitations-of-standardized-testing-in-assessing-students-intelligence-and-potential-academic-success/> [Accessed 6 Feb. 2023].
Limitations of Standardized Testing in Assessing Students’ Intelligence and Potential Academic Success [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 01 [cited 2023 Feb 6]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/limitations-of-standardized-testing-in-assessing-students-intelligence-and-potential-academic-success/
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