Knowledge is power. Unfortunately, the question of how to most effectively measure knowledge is not a popular adage. The question has been widely debated and ultimately gave birth to standardized testing. Surprisingly, standardized tests are relatively new. In 1908, the first standardized achievement tests in arithmetic, handwriting, spelling, drawing, reading, and language were developed at Columbia University. It was not until nearly ten years later that standardized tests were widely developed to measure achievement in the principal and secondary school subjects. In the late 1920s, multiple choice tests began to be used in schools, allowing for testing of the masses to become feasible.
Since this time, standardized testing has grown exponentially as a means to gauge preparedness and intelligence, while simultaneously becoming a “hot button” topic in education. Many argue that standardized tests have put children at a disadvantage as teachers have begun to “teach to test” rather than “teach to learn.” The other side argues that standardized tests are the best means to measure achievement objectively and to allow for equal and equivalent content for all students. Today, students are required by federal mandate to be tested by third grade, which continues post-high school for those who pursue higher learning. For students who wish to pursue academia at a college or university level, no test is more critical to their future than the ACT and SAT.
The ACT and SAT are fundamental gauges used by most colleges to determine admissions. As a prospective college student, your score is critical to admittance into a University. Once you are accepted, your score is incorporated into their annual statistics, which heavily affect their reputation and competitiveness. The weight the exams carry in the admission process has created a multibillion-dollar industry in standardized testing preparation including everything from private tutoring and group classes to self-help books. But what means of preparation is best suited for you? The answer varies from student to student based on the setting they learn best in and the level of preparation required. Research conducted by the Department of Education showed a direct correlation between one-on-one tutoring and performance that heavily out-performed group and self-help alternatives.
Critics against standardized tests argue that children who do not test well under this format are at a disadvantage. However, it remains the only viable way to measure today’s students and is embedded in the process of pursuing higher learning. Practice and time management are crucial to success, but also understanding how each student performs best helps achieve the highest results possible. Even though standardized tests are relatively new, they will remain critical to how knowledge and critical thinking are measured.