Standardized Tests: Outdated and Overrated

The room is silent. Tick, tick, tick. You turn around and see the clock behind you. 45 minutes left. You turn back to the question you were on, confused. Your empty stomach taunts you, but you ignore it and reread the question, over and over, until it’s lost all meaning. You sigh, mark it to review later, and turn to the next, confusing question, before taking another look at the clock. 43 minutes. Most people can relate to the misery of standardized tests, even if they’ve graduated. But the problem isn’t just the hours of misery in a cold classroom. Standardized tests should be removed from the educational system. It has a poor effect on students, the test itself has many problems, and there are many things that the tests don’t measure.

First of all, standardized testing has a poor effect on students. One reason is that there is an immense amount of stress on the students. Students feel so much stress because there is a lot of pressure on them to get high test scores. Some standardized tests don’t affect students directly (such as ISATs), but they affect the superintendent, who puts pressure on the principals, then on the teachers, then on the students. Other tests, like the SAT, affect students more by having a huge impact on colleges’ views of a student. If a student is having a bad day and does poorly on the SAT, it will impact them for their whole life; they might not get into the college they want, changing the outcome of their career. A bad SAT score also results in students having lower self-esteem. Standardized tests are such a high-stakes test that it results in a lot of pressure put on students, which is just one reason standardized tests should end.

Secondly, the test has many problems. First of all, race, class, and gender have an effect on scores, which is mainly because the test values are outdated and prejudiced. For example, social class plays a huge factor in test taking. According to, Eloy Ortiz Oaklyn (MBA, Chancellor of California Community Colleges) said “Many well-resourced students have far greater access to test preparation, tutoring and taking the test multiple times, opportunities not afforded the less affluent… [T]hese admissions tests are a better measure of students’ family background and economic status than of their ability to succeed”. Students also learn in different ways, and there is just a single test for every student. The test results are easily influenced by outside factors, such as if a student is hungry, had a bad day, or is dealing with something at home. Additionally, each state creates its own test, so the tests are not comparable across state lines. These are just some examples of the flaws within standardized tests themselves.

Some argue that standardized tests are a good measure of a student’s abilities and progress over time, but they don’t measure lots of things necessary for colleges to know to understand a student’s abilities. For example, standardized tests don’t show college readiness, resilience, self-motivation, creativity, problem-solving, critical thinking, artistic abilities, or how successful they will be. Tests simply show how good a student is at taking tests on a specific subject; it doesn’t have the magic ability to tell how “smart” they are, or how successful they will be. It’s just a test. GPA shows a lot more about a student. also claims Elaine M. Allensworth (PhD, Lewis-Sebring Director of the University of Chicago Consortium) said, “GPAs measure a very wide variety of skills and behaviors that are needed for success in college, where students will encounter widely varying content and expectations. In contrast, standardized tests measure only a small set of the skills that students need to succeed in college, and students can prepare for these tests in narrow ways that may not translate into better preparation to succeed in college.” says, according to Matthew M. Chingos (PhD, Vice President of Education Data and Policy at the Urban Institute), “Earning good grades requires consistent behaviors over time—showing up to class and participating, turning in assignments, taking quizzes, etc.—whereas students could in theory do well on a test even if they do not have the motivation and perseverance needed to achieve good grades. It seems likely that the kinds of habits high school grades capture are more relevant for success in college than a score from a single test.” This just shows how GPA is a better measure of a student’s performance than a test.

One possible solution is to reduce the number of standardized tests, and instead, to require students to write essays. For example, if you want to test how much a student has progressed over the year, ask them how they think they progressed. Students might realize how much they learned, motivating them to keep up the work, and it would be more accurate than a test because students know themselves better than an hour-long test will. The feedback will be direct and it will save students time and stress. Instead of the SAT, ask students to write an essay on why they feel they are ready for college. Most classes have pre and post tests to show what students learned academically; we don’t need a standardized test to add another stressful variable for students. Students know themselves better than any test does. Ask the students the same questions you’re hoping for the tests to answer.

Standardized tests might have been useful in the past, but it’s the present, and as time changes, so must the educational system. Standardized tests have a poor effect on students, have many problems within the test itself, and don’t accurately measure the qualities necessary for life after high school. Some might find the idea of high school without standardized tests hard to imagine, but I believe it’s best for students, teachers, and colleges. Standardized tests are no longer necessary, so why do we continue to put students through the same pointless misery again and again?