Essay and Answer Writing

Are standardized tests a good measure of academic ability? [2014]

“The principal goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done – men who are creative, inventive and discoverers” – standardised tests are a yardstick used widely all over the world to measure and evaluate many values, academic abilities being one of them. The standardised tests have become a validating certificate for the students to pursue their future dreams. These tests are combination of quantitative, verbal, etc. sections on which certain amount of questions are asked. Depending on the nature of the field, these questions are framed to check one's ability. While it is true that these tests are objective, and same for all, those are very things that make it problematic. Every child has a different aptitude, different talent that a generic test may not measure. 
 
What are standardised tests?
A standardised test is any form of test that (1) requires all test takers to answer the same questions, or a selection of questions from common bank of questions, in the same way, and that (2) is scored in a “standard” or consistent manner, which makes it possible to compare the relative performance of individual students or groups of students. While standardised tests are a major source of debate many test experts and educators consider them to be a fair and objective method of assessing the academic achievement of students, mainly because the standardised format, coupled with computerised scoring, reduces the potential for favouritism, bias, or subjective evaluations. The subject matter among school-age students is frequently academic skills, but a standardised test can be given on any topic, including driving tests, creativity, athleticism, personality, professional ethics, or other attributes.
 
The opposite of standardised testing is non-standardised testing, in which either significantly different tests are given to different test takers, or the same test is assigned under significantly different conditions or evaluated differently.
 
Academic testing in India 
Since the inception of the Indian education system, standardised tests have existed to test student’s potential and capabilities. Examinations are conducted in every institution to gauge a child’s prowess. Another realm where standardised tests are widely used in India is through competitive and entrance examinations, for instance for admissions into IIT, JNU, AIIMS as well as the administrative services UPSC examinations. 
 
There are many advantages of using these tests:
·Generalised and objective
·Measure progress
·Can be used to measure different aspects like: aptitude, IQ, EQ, etc.
·Comparisons can be made between two or more students based on the performance in the test
·Assessment is quicker
·Computerised tests allows for speed
 
However, there are many disadvantages too:
·The tests are restrictive: don’t allow any flexibility.
·Don’t allow free thinking: students are made to choose from only given options
·Many students find it difficult to deal with the mental stress that these tests put them into
·Can cause anxiety and psychological disorders
·It encourages narrow curriculum, outdated methods and retention
 
Far too many people wrongly assume that standardised testing data provides a neutral authoritative assessment of a child’s intellectual ability. Cultural factors, unfamiliarity with testing methods, test anxiety, and illness can wreak havoc with how well a student performs. For that reason, it’s important to dig deeper when looking at a student’s test scores. Does a low score indicate a lack of knowledge about the subject or a problem with taking the standardised test? For example, an excellent writer could struggle with picking out the right answer in a multiple choice grammar and punctuation test. Yet that same student could excel at composing well-thought out, logical essays about the literature they read and enjoyed in class.
 
Recent thinking among many leading educators suggests that there are various forms of intelligence. Even a student with less aptitude skill can possess higher ‘interpersonal’ skills. But these skills are not tested by the standardised tests. This in turn results in failing or average marks in standardised tests, sometimes leading to depression, wastage of year, lack of confidence, etc. Some framed set of questions chained out of a limited view perspective, sometimes cannot measure the progress or ability of an individual. At one point during his childhood, Albert Einstein was considered a poor student, with low intelligence! 
 
Conclusion
“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school” – standardised testing assumes that all students are the same. And this can never be true. Assessments are useful when they’re used as data to help schools improve the quality of the teaching and learning. They become harmful, however, when tests are used to judge students’ natural abilities. Schools and parents should always look at standardised tests not as a value judgement on the student, but as an additional data point that can provide some perspective on student learning. Standardised tests can only be one of the many other ways or methods to test a student. 



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