Standardized tests â€“ yet another way to rip off poor students
Friday, November 18, 20058 Comments
Standardized tests are supposed to be tests where every person answers the same questions. However, as I recently took the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), I know that most of us did not have the same questions. The GRE is a computer adaptive test in which every student is presented questions according to their previous answer. For example, the first question may be hard and if the student gets it wrong, then the next question will be easier but the weight of the question will vary. So according to your performance, you will be presented with a different series of questions.
In general, standardized tests create more pressure for people, which can affect performance on the test. The expectations to do well on such tests force students to study long hours and give up sleep and then wake up early to take an exam which they are told will have a huge influence on which university will accept them for higher studies. The scores from the GRE is used by graduate schools to determine verbal, analytical and math abilities of a student. The verbal section consists of antonyms, analogies, sentence completion and reading comprehension. It is generally the hardest section because it is the most difficult to study or prepare for since most students vocabulary cannot be expanded in a few weeks to master this test. A better representation of English and writing skills is the analytical section. However, the time limit of 30-45 minutes on each of the two essays does create considerable pressure in order to create compelling and grammatically correct essays that either have to justify a side of an issue or analyze an argument.
Standardized tests usually assume that all students taking the test are from the same background, usually white-middle class. Canadian universities use the GRE to accept students into their graduate programs. However, the GRE itself is a test created in the United States. The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) was also created in the United States but countries all over the world use it when determining which students should be accepted into the undergraduate programs.
The other problem with standardized tests is that they are not objective. Most sections if multiple choice are marked by a computer which makes it objective. However, for the GRE, the essay sections are marked by two or three people who will all vary in their views of what a good essay is. Hence the marks can be very subjective.
The tests do not seem reliable to me. It is possible that the tests are reliable. However, the conditions under which the test is taken repeatedly can vary and hence, the scores can vary as well. If a person who just experienced a death in the family took the exam, it is quite likely that they would not do so well. However, if they took it in a week where they were focused and had no personal issues, then they would probably do considerably better. Everyone’s scores can vary from day to day.
Additionally, most people do better on different types of tests. Multiple choice questions are not always the best way of testing. However, because it is so easy to mark multiple choice questions using a computer, it is most frequently used on tests. Multiple choice requires students to recognize answers instead of recalling them and explaining or reasoning questions. Multiple choice questions also do not reflect real life questions since we usually do not have a bunch of choices with only one right answer in front of us when we have to solve a problem.
Standardized testing is yet another business. There are numerous publishers that make study guides for the various standardized tests. Plus the tests themselves are ridiculously expensive and considering the stress we are under to take them, chances are we will not be satisfied with our marks and will have to take them over again and pay more money. Then, once you take the test, you are required to send the scores to the universities you intend on applying to. However, there is always a limit on how many you can send for free, usually no more than three or four. Most students apply to at least five universities and will have to pay more money to send more scores out. In the end of it all, we would have hopefully made it to one university and have lost all this money, which the testing agencies and publishing companies made their unfair profits from poor students.
Standardized tests need to take into consideration individual differences and variations across different students’ abilities, backgrounds, knowledge, experience, et cetera in order to be completely fair. As unrealistic as that may seem, it is the only way to ensure that the tests are fair and reliable. In order to evaluate a student’s ability, tests should not be time-pressured and they should evaluate real life tasks and performance. Not knowing the antonym of a random word in the dictionary that is hardly ever used does not reflect a student’s abilities or knowledge nor does it determine if they are qualified to attend a graduate program or predict how well they will in the future.