Why students have to do standardized tests


Em Paquette

Standardized tests are used in elementary and high schools to test progress.

Caroline Pauly, Staff Writer

Students are introduced to standardized testing as early as elementary school to track academic progress; however, this eventually turns into a determining factor of admission at some colleges and universities.

Growing up, students may have taken the NWEA MAP (Northwest Evaluation Association’s Measure of Academic Progress) tests. The results of these tests are used to help elementary school teachers see where the strengths and weaknesses of their students are.

Standardized testing does not go away once students reach high school. At public schools, they are required to take statewide testing. In Minnesota, students will either take the MCA (Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments) or MTAS (Minnesota Test of Academic Skills). These tests are used to track students’ progress to meet Minnesota’s academic standards along with meeting the requirements of the state and federal legislature.

At BSM, students are not required to take these tests because BSM is a private institution. This allows teachers flexibility in the classroom because they do not have to cater to a test. “At BSM that is one of the things they take pride in is that teachers have the ability to kind of create their own curriculum, and if we go to more standard testing we’re gonna take that freedom away,” Guidance & College Counselor Ms. Amanda Anderson said.

BSM does help students prepare for one specific standardized test that is especially daunting for juniors and seniors, the ACT (American College Testing). This prep class is offered to students during their junior year to utilize as they begin taking the test. “We do tell students the more prepared you can be, the better,” Anderson said.

The ACT and SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test) are standardized tests that students all around the world anticipate taking come junior and senior year. These tests are commonly put to use by colleges in the admission process. Typically colleges will use a student’s scores as another factor to determine whether or not they will thrive at their school, along with identifying course placement upon enrollment.

However, these standardized test scores have lost emphasis throughout the years with the rise of test-optional colleges. “In terms of just overall, I think that the trend is still going the way it’s been in the last 15 years, towards colleges realizing and using the grades, GPA, and rigor of the courses as their primary factor,” Guidance & College Counselor Mr. Fran Roby said.  

There are multiple organizations and tutors that help students prepare for these tests; however, many cost a significant amount of money. Though these prep classes come at a hefty price, they have proven to raise multiple students’ scores. “Test prep really does pay off and multiple test-taking really pays off,” Roby said.

Though this one score is a depiction of four hours versus four years, it still has quite a bit of importance. “What I heard from the director of admissions at USC… is that he doesn’t see the very competitive [and] the most selective colleges in the nation ever going away from test scores because it is one more factor that they can use to kind of take people out of the mix,” Anderson said.

We encourage it because it is the system that exists.

— Ms. Amanda Anderson

Parents now are a little more aware of the need to prepare early because they see the benefits to a decent score. It helps in the admissions process and is extremely useful when it comes to scholarships. “It can earn you money, like big money,” Roby said.

This is definitely an added pressure on students to do well. However, these tests did not have as much attention when students’ parents took them. “We only took it once, we never had a tutor, we didn’t register online, and you took it at your school,” Spirit Shop volunteer Cindy Ehlen said.

Along with the SAT and ACT, many students take AP courses to take those tests at the end of the school year. Depending on one’s score, they may receive some college credit and eliminate some course load. However, students have expressed how difficult the process is.

Some students will take AP U.S. History, for example, and then later find out they can only get one Social Studies AP credit after taking an AP Government course or the AP European History. “Some schools are very picky about how much credit they give for our AP tests, and they are also picky about the number of credits you can get in a certain area,” Anderson said.

Standardized testing, in terms of the college process, is more significant to some schools than others. Though the number of test-optional schools is rising, the majority of colleges do require a score of some sort. Preparation is helpful in this factor of admissions, though it doesn’t show the entire picture, and is most definitely not an IQ test. “We encourage it because it is the system that exists,” Anderson said.