Standardized testing is not an accurate measure of intelligence
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You’re crammed in a room, that is most likely too hot or too cold. You’re surrounded by people you probably don’t know, and you’re taking a test you have never, or rarely, taken before. This mammoth five hour test you’re worrying about, be it SAT or ACT,will play a large part in determining the caliber of college you get admitted to, the scholarships you’ll receive to go there, and will give you a number out of 36 or 2400 that will tell you just how smart you really are.
The first standardized tests appeared in America during World War I as a means of placing U.S. Army recruits into military roles that suited their skills. Later the psychologists that created those tests created the Scholastic Aptitude Test, or SAT. The objective was to create a full-length test to judge the overall intelligence of a student applying to college. The ACT was later created in 1959 with a similar goal. The two tests today contain sections for reading, writing, math, and in the ACT, science.
The first of many flaws with the ACT and SAT is that entire subjects of the high school curriculum are simply brushed to the wayside. Social Studies, History, and for all intents and purposes, Science, are ignored, while topics such as advanced mathematics and English are elevated far above their real world relevance. Science, while technically included in the ACT, is reduced to reading complicated graphs and interpreting their results–– a tiny portion of what the field of science really amounts to.
Along with disregarding major mandatory high school topics, the tests also brush aside the multitude of electives that students could be strong in. Business, art, theology, engineering, and music are all amongst the subjects that are not included in the ACT or SAT.
Furthermore, the weakness of the ACT and SAT shines through with it’s unfamiliar format. These tests are different from any other test any high school student has taken before. There are no true or false, there are no short answers, there are no maps to label, there are multiple choice questions, and that’s it.
The goal of standardized testing is not to find out how well you think through problems, or if you can express your opinions, or create a presentation, the goal is to find out what you were able to memorize. The more inconsequential details you can churn out the smarter colleges will perceive you to be. The intense effort it takes to truly perform well on these tests means that students have less and less time to focus on their actual schoolwork in the hardest years of high school.
Both the ACT and SAT are intended to be taken towards the end of junior year or the beginning of senior year; times filled with AP classes and extremely high levels of stress. To expect the average student to manage their already challenging schedule while simultaneously studying for the ACT or SAT is unrealistic and unfair.
If parents and education officials are searching for ways to lower stress levels of high school students, they need to look no further than reducing the pressure placed on students over standardized testing. Tests such the ACT and the SAT serve only as stressors to students, without achieving their goals of giving colleges an accurate representation of the skills and knowledge they can offer. Students should focus on developing their own intelligence and learning information relevant to their lives, not memorizing the answers to a test that serves no discernible purpose.