Standardized testing: a true measure of cerebral fitness?

Standardized tests such as the ACT, GRE and countless others are used by various levels of our education system to figure out the intelligence of the nation’s students. In regards to college admission, these scores make a big difference in a person’s hopes and dreams. I do not know about you, but I sure love having a simple number playing a huge determinate in my future, don’t you?

I realize standardized testing is necessary to measure students in their academic learning, but I believe too much emphasis is placed in these tests that really do not prove all that much. Now, for instance, I have more of an understanding for standardized testing during a child’s K-12 years. The proficiency tests taken during those formative years are used to gauge a student’s learning, but I would not bet the bank on their effectiveness.

Where my real problem with standardized testing comes is dealing with college and graduate school admission exams. The ACT and GRE play a big role in college and graduate school admissions. This means that these tests can definitely make or break a student’s academic dreams. Many students may be smart but suffer from test anxiety, making standardized testing a serious roadblock.

The average ACT score in the U.S., according to the ACT website, is 21 out of a possible 36. Meanwhile, the minimum ACT score needed for the University Scholars program at YSU is a 28. Now, I realize there are only so many of these scholarships available, but it just seems ridiculous to value a test score so highly. I mean, can you honestly make the argument that a student with a 3.6 high school GPA and a 28 on the ACT is more intelligent than another who had a 3.86 GPA but only a 25 on the ACT?

I talked to Robert Merz, a professional writing and editing graduate student at YSU, who put it very plainly: “Standardized testing in no way measures intelligence.”

“Some people are just good test-takers and can just get it like riding a bike,” he said. “Others struggle with finding the right balance and never really get the hang of it.”

Surely in a society where we say we value the entire individual, a simple test score would not be enough to turn down an otherwise promising student.

Now, let’s look at the GRE, a test required by most graduate schools for admittance into their postgraduate programs. Graduate schools use the test scores as a way of “weeding out” the lesser-qualified applicants. I can find some merit for this process; when you have hundreds of applicants who apply for a program with only 50 openings, you have to make cuts somewhere.

However, to place so much stock into a three-hour exam where otherwise strong candidates are turned away just because they are falling short of a certain number is just ridiculous.

Needless to say, I am one of the many who has never been a great test-taker. Luckily, like the countless other students who manage to have successful college careers without the support of superb test scores, I’ve managed to do all right.

I don’t know about you, but this truly seems to be an irrational way of judging a student’s academic talents. Again, I see from a basic level that educators need some way to sort through the millions of students that matriculate through the different levels of our education system. Nevertheless, the practice of using these test scores as rigid admission standards is just not right. 

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