Why standardized tests fail to assess students’ knowledge

Find out why, despite their prevalence, standardized tests fail to assess students’ knowledge.

The accuracy and relevance of standardized tests have been discussed for decades. The proponents of this method point out the importance of having measurable analytics that allows tracking student performance and making conclusions about the effectiveness of teaching. Testing is also meant to promote objective assessment and help to improve learning outcomes. 

A standardized test is a one-size-fits-all approach that sets a universal standard in education. However, all students have different talents, abilities, learning styles, and motivations. How can a single standardized test assess their knowledge fairly, considering a variety of factors that may influence the results? This question makes educators, parents, and students concerned about the actual value of standardized test scores. 

Let’s take a look at a few reasons why standardized tests can’t really help assess students’ knowledge.

1) Standardized tests cause unnecessary stress

Students often face extreme pressure when taking standardized tests. The scores may influence their admission chances or other academic opportunities. Besides, stress may undermine students’ learning due to its physical and mental symptoms, including low energy, frequent infections, tense muscles, rapid heartbeat, insomnia, forgetfulness, and inability to focus. 

Excessive and prolonged stress won’t bring any positive results. Therefore, a much smarter approach to learning will be to get academic help from a write my essay online service whenever you feel overwhelmed. Cramming day and night for a test doesn’t help you reach internal mastery. It only induces chronic stress.

2) Outside factors can influence tests scores

Standardized tests provide a one-day evaluation of students’ achievements. However, there are a lot of factors that can cause learners to underperform on the test day. Even if they know the material, students face the following obstacles:

  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Tiredness
  • Language barriers
  • Pressure
  • Overestimated importance of the test
  • Comments of teachers or parents that influence students’ attitudes

It doesn’t matter how hard a student worked during the semester, they might still fail the test because of being anxious or pressured while taking it. As a result, the test scores won’t be a reflection of their intelligence or potential. 

3) Standardized tests are biased

Even though standardized tests are designed with the aim to provide objective assessment, they’re still more favorable to students who come from privileged backgrounds. Studies have shown that there’s a link between family income and SAT scores.

A higher socioeconomic status allows students to access quality preparation resources and tutoring. For this reason, they tend to have higher scores. Thus, standardized test results are influenced by one’s wealth instead of focusing only on knowledge and ability to succeed. 

Besides, people who design tests often rely on background knowledge. Yet, it’s based on what is common knowledge for middle-class white students, not those who belong to minorities or less privileged socioeconomic status. There are also no effective testing accommodations for English language learners. 

4) High test scores don’t equal success

Standardized test scores often have nothing to do with the true potential of a student, but they’re still used for the purpose of determining it. For example, college admission officers across the US use the ACT and SAT scores to find people who are likely to succeed on the campus.

Yet research suggests that the tests have a low level of accuracy when it comes to performance predictions. A lot of the skills that can actually help students succeed are too complex to be measured by multiple-choice questions. 

5) Standardized tests lack flexibility

All students are different. They have unique learning styles and their performance varies depending on the type of assignment. Some students are good at answering multiple-choice questions, while others would perform better when responding to open-ended questions. Standardized tests don’t consider these personal factors that might disadvantage certain types of learners. 

Although personalization is a full-blown trend in education, it doesn’t affect testing. Standardized tests are focused on providing a one-size-fits-all approach that doesn’t serve students’ best interests. This creates a misalignment between learning objectives and assessment practices. Therefore, it’s crucial to prioritize competency-based assessment to gain more balanced insights into student performance. 

6) Inaccurate assessment affects students’ confidence

Students have to take multiple standardized tests. In fact, they’re tested too often. Due to the limitations of this assessment method, students frequently get results that are much lower than expected. It makes those who otherwise could be successful lose confidence in their skills and abilities. These students become too harsh on themselves and develop low self-esteem. 

Standardized tests also affect motivation in the classroom. Some students may become completely disengaged as they know that test scores can’t be more valuable than actual comprehension of the material. They can even ignore taking tests or choose wrong answers on purpose because they feel disappointed about unfair assessment. 

7) Standardized assessment doesn’t address soft skills

Creativity, critical thinking, interpersonal communication, problem-solving. All these skills are crucial to be successful as a student and beyond. Yet, standardized tests don’t measure these abilities. 

Unlike project and portfolio assessment, tests don’t show how students grow and develop their skills. They offer no room for creativity or self-expression. Standardized tests are limited to only one dimension of students’ hard skills. Yet, a true picture of one’s intellect is a combination of factors that requires educators to dig deeper. 

Standardized testing is far from perfect

Standardized testing is a controversial issue. It has many downsides but is still considered “a necessary evil” by some educators and policy-makers. As standardized tests provide some extra data on student learning, they’re still used by the majority of schools, admission committees, and college programs.

So almost every student has to take a few of them. Being informed about the purpose and features of standardized tests can help them navigate the process.