The Folly that is Standardized Testing

Most of us hear the words “standardized testing” and begin to groan. Four hours (give or take) of sitting in a room with a number 2 pencil staring at a piece of paper with hundreds of little circles and ensuring that our marks are clear, our erasures are clear and our sanity is not lost. All within a specified amount of time. These tests are supposed to measure something or other. But really they measure nothing…nothing but how good of a tester, guesser and BSer you are.

Sometime ago I received my AP test scores and I think they are pretty good scores (Chemistry could have gone a bit better :P). But the point is that right now if you ask me to describe to you how capillary action, intramolecular forces or Taylor Series works, I would stare blankly and then talk about something else…like Big Bang Theory, economics or politics. The thing is that I don’t understand all of those concepts and one would think that in order to score so well on the AP test, I ought to know those concepts.

I could go on and on about the problems of standardized testing (and I’m sure you could too), so onto solutions.

Here is my thought: get rid of standardized. Society wants to put everyone into a cookie-cutter mold so that we all grow up to realize the “American Dream” – own a house with a white picket fence, and have 2.2 children. This is what standardized does to us. It tells us that everyone should know the same concepts, have the same thought process and reach the same conclusion. This is wrong. We need to fundamentally understand that everyone is different (this brings up another point – everyone is not equal – but that’s something I’ll save for another time). And furthermore we need to encourage everyone not to be afraid of being different. Difference needs to be celebrated, not condemned.

That being said, we do need to ensure that a person has a certain breadth of knowledge, so I think the following suggestion would be on top of the currently instituted testing process.

So here goes: in addition to what is already in place, if a student would like to receive college credit, the student would need to create a substantial report or presentation, that would be acceptable to real college professors and students, on a single topic. This product should, unlike the testing, go into considerable depth on this certain topic.

What this does is that it requires a person to actually understand a concept. I repeat: actually understand a concept. I can guarantee to you that if such a thing was part of my AP testing, I would not have passed many of tests.

I realize that many people won’t like what I just said. Which is fine because these tests should not really care about the personal fancies of the people that are taking them. I mean, if it were up to most of us, we’d get rid of the AP test altogether and want to claim credit for just taking the AP class. And in such a situation, how do you ensure that students actually learned the content of a class to a sufficient level?

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4 responses to “The Folly that is Standardized Testing

  1. Jessica Huynh

    You know, if potential careers as an engineer or economist don’t work out, you could always become a columnist. šŸ™‚ Seriously, good job and I totally agree with you. What do you think of exams like the British O-Level or International Baccalaureate?

    • Thanks, Jessica! I’ll keep that in mind :P.

      I don’t know much about IB or the O-Level, but from the little bit that I do know it seems the IB exams are pretty similar to the AP exam essays. I like that in order to get an IB diploma you need to do an independent research project, but what I was thinking is requiring an independent research project for each AP/IB level class in addition to the testing that’s already in place. So for example, in chemistry I just fall in love with dipole-dipole bonds, then I would do more research on that and learn how it is used, etc.

      The more I think about it, the more I realize that it may be a pretty tough thing to do, especially if you have 4 or 5 or 6 in a single year. But of course, those that really want to do it, will find a way to do it.

  2. Hey Tejas this is raju. Although i agree about your comment that we need to understand everyone thinks differently how are we exactly going to measure someones comprehension of subject matter?Although AP tests test concepts that everyone should know they pick a good deal of needed concepts in the testing environment. It takes a lot of studying and practice which usually drills into your brain so you can comprehend the material.On another note, as you know India has standardized testing for exams like the AIEEE(All India Engineering Entrance Exam) where they drill subjects learnt in Intermediate such as Calculus. These exams are used to prepare the students for engineering school using the basic concepts needed for more advanced topics they will cover upon in their engineering school.So should our alternative be is to copy Indias model of standardized testing or remove standardized testing?

    • Regarding the studying, that really isn’t the case for many people. For some people studying for the AP test will drill a concept like you said, but for others, it will stay with them for a while and then be forgotten.

      And I’m not saying either of those two last choices. Refer to my previous comment (replying to Jessica). I’m saying keep standardized testing, but add a non-standardized portion to it.

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