Standardized Tests Don’t Indicate Intelligence

Standardized Tests Don’t Indicate Intelligence

Ari Stein, Staff Writer

Colleges, states and even school districts think standardized tests are an accurate indicator of a student’s skill level. But are standardized tests really an accurate way to test one’s knowledge? No. Everyone has a different learning style, and some people perform better under pressure than others.

If someone’s test score is low, then people assume they aren’t as intelligent as the kid who got a perfect score. But what if that student breaks under pressure? Or what if the other student happens to have good luck when it comes to guessing? Well, no college, state, school district or anyone looking at the results will know this. Every individual is different. Some people excel under pressure and others succumb to it.

Colleges claim they are looking for a good fit for their school, but standardized tests do not test real world skills, creativity, and personality. Instead, these people are judged by a timed, mainly multiple choice test. What looks good on paper may not look good in real life.

Shouldn’t a standardized test be a true assessment of knowledge and abilities, and not a test full of tricks like the SAT and ACT? There is SAT and ACT prep that teaches people strategies and shortcuts to help them get around the tricks and succeed on these tests. That is an indication these tests are not designed to test intelligence, but rather to trick the test taker through confusing and complicated directions and time constraints.

Essentially these books and prep classes are just teaching how to answer specific types of questions in a certain amount of time, rather than teaching you to master the understanding of the subject. Therefore, the SAT and ACT do not accurately measure someone’s understanding and knowledge of material.

Some people can’t afford tutoring. How is it fair to compare these students to those who have had hours upon hours of practice and tutoring to master these methods? One private hour-long session can cost as much as $100. Data from college board shows there is a direct correlation between wealth and test scores. The higher the affluence of the family, the higher the test scores are.  The wealthiest children scored almost 400 points better than the poorest test takers. These statistics prove some kids have an unfair advantage on these tests.

There are the types of people who could tell you everything about a subject, but when it is time to take a pressured test they buckle under pressure. Others could not tell you one thing about the subject, but manage to stay calm under pressure and guess correctly.

For the SAT and ACT, people have multiple opportunities to improve their score, but on standardized tests students take at school, there is one only chance. Everyone has off days where things don’t seem to click and other days where their brain is flowing with information. What if a student’s off day is the day they are taking the standardized test?

In the spring of 2016, changes to the SAT will be made. Major changes include an optional essay, smaller range of math topics, less use of arcane vocabulary words, problems in a real world context and no penalty for wrong answers. Hopefully this will attempt to fix the problems and create a fairer test, but we will only know for certain in 2016.

No penalty for wrong answers encourages students to guess on every problem, which makes the test less reliable as a representation of a student’s knowledge. This student may just have good luck guessing and not actually know the material. It may make the test more relevant to today’s curriculum, but there will still be tricks to master certain concepts.

It is not fair for colleges, states, and school districts to assess individuals based on these tests.