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Standardized Testing: Yes or No?

Standardized testing - sure, there are challenges and downsides to everything, just as there are merits. Standardized tests are no exception. Despite every effort to standardize school testing, the set guidelines will always, in one way or another, leave some people at a disadvantage. Yet, the efforts to make standardized exams as fair as possible should not go unnoticed.

Forms of Standardized Testing

Standardized tests take different forms; the most common are multiple-choice questions and essays. 

  • Multiple-choice questions appear in many settings, including annual state testing, to ensure the questions gauge specific understanding.
  • Essays allow the students tested to express themselves freely within the confinements of a particular topic.

Yes to Standardized Testing

Tests are considered standardized due to their similarities in characteristics across the board. They try to create a level ground on which to test every student. Additionally, the instructions for standardized tests are similar or identical. 

For example, multiple-choice tests have multiple answers, as the name suggests. In the exams, students at the same level, in the same time period, sit for similar exams. The available choices create a confinement within which the correct answers must come. The choices provided also provide clues and even help trigger memories in students.

If every student were to sit for a different examination, it would be challenging to decide what qualifies as passing and what is failing. Even if all the students got the same score, but the tests were different, and the instructions differed, the testing would not prove anything.

Testing for All 

The fact that standardized exams present similar questions and answers for students makes examining relatively easy and fair. Standardization also calls for allocating the same amount of time for all participants. The allocated time seeks to test not just for answers but for speed. Essay writing also seeks to test for speed, creativity, and thought alignment.

Having the same questions and answers and different scoring schemes would be pointless. Essays can bring a challenge here, seeing that what counts for a good story doesn’t necessarily qualify as one for all readers. However, experts are trained on scoring factors such as the size of the composed piece, the tone, tense, grammatical mistakes, and other standard elements to provide the most well-rounded score.

Impartial and Rational

Standardization can be considered impartial and rational by the characteristics it has. The question raised, however, is whether standardization should be neutral. Some people take more time to understand than others. It also takes different people different timelines to compose their thoughts and create content. 

For such reasons, should testing be one-size-fits-all? Should the time to finish an exam be equal for everyone, or should slower people be allocated more time? It should be more than one-size-fits-all, but the concept of standardization accommodates most students and challenges others.

Standardization should be applied as long as students compete within their abilities and are not unfairly disadvantaged. Accommodations can and should be given to students that need varying degrees of help. 

Qualifying Qualities

Standardization tries to make a level playing field for exam participants. It considers the fast and slow students and finds a balance in ensuring they all get ample time to deliver on the examination. The best part about standardization is that the rules are identical and disclosed, giving every student a chance at success. 

The advance stipulation of the guidelines allows for all parties to practice beforehand. This way, they can meet the minimum qualifications and enter a test confident they have been taught the necessary ideas.

Merits of Standardized Exams

Standardized exams provide a reflection point for students and teachers alike. Results from standardized exams help all parties realize what was understood and what was not understood. They also help institutions, in general, pinpoint trouble points and work on better delivery of the same subjects.

Standardized exams are a measure of progress. Often these examinations are strategically placed and mark the beginning and ends of specific periods of learning, such as the school year. Those who qualify for the assessments and pass them graduate to a different level. In a big way, they also are a motivational factor as far as the whole educational system is concerned.

Standardized assessments allow for accountability. The results from these tests prove that teachers have delivered adequately and that students have studied and understood their age-appropriate content.

Written by Dennis K.
Education World Contributor
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