What Are the Pros and Cons of Standardized Testing? from Spark Admissions (2023)

What Are the Pros and Cons of Standardized Testing? from Spark Admissions (1)

Debates around standardized testing have been around for as long as standardized test scores have been part of education in the United States. Some argue that students undergo too much testing: by their high schools, by the state, for college admissions, etc. Others argue that standardized tests are the only fair way to evaluate student achievement.

During the past seventy-five years, arguments about the value of standardized testing have not eliminated these tests. Yet, these tests have changed. The SAT, for instance, was originally intended to be an IQ test, a perfect encapsulation of a student’s intelligence. Now, college admissions officers know that an SAT score is not a whole picture of a high school student’s abilities. It’s just one piece among many they use to evaluate applicants.

Nevertheless, knowing some of the pros and cons of standardized testing can help you better understand the American education system as a whole and how to approach it.

The Pros of Standardized Testing

Below, you can find some of the major arguments in favor of standardized testing. Schools, colleges, and states that require standardized testing generally believe these to be true, even if they are also aware of some of the downsides to standardized tests (see below).

It Is Fair

This is probably the biggest argument proponents of standardized testing make: it’s fair. It’s a single test, taken under equal conditions, to measure student achievement fairly. By this logic, standardized test scores from the SAT and ACT are some of the only aspects of a student’s academic performance that aren’t determined by their town or school.

It Creates a Universal Standard for Education

The obvious purpose of standardized testing is to create a standard. Proponents of standardized testing argue that some kind of examination outside of school curricula—which can vary widely by school district—can help an education system better compare students from very different backgrounds because all these students took the exact same test. By measuring students against that universal standard, it becomes easier to evaluate and rank them.

It Holds Teachers and Students Accountable

In the same way that standardized tests provide a standard to measure students, they can also help set larger educational standards for schools across a state or country. Standardized tests make educational initiatives like No Child Left Behind or the Common Core more concrete by checking students’ academic progress. If students in particular school districts are struggling to perform at grade level, superintendents and governments know to get involved.

It Shows Analytical Progress

Standardized testing can also help standardize individual students’ educations. In addition to comparing students against one another or identifying problematic schools or districts, standardized tests can also illustrate student progress over time. Taking the same or similar tests over the years can allow students to indicate measurable improvement.

It Provides an Inclusive Opportunity

Standardized tests can give students from under-performing high schools a chance to prove that they have mastered ample academic material despite their circumstances. Because standardized tests are not tied to any one high school curriculum, they can offer an inclusive opportunity for students to highlight their successful performance. Proponents argue that standardized testing can help level the playing field in public education.

Many Professionals Must Take High-Stakes Standardized Tests

Finally, while much of the arguing around standardized testing is focused on high school students and younger, the fact is that standardized testing is often a fact of life well beyond secondary school. Anyone who wants to become a doctor, lawyer, teacher, engineer, actuary, architect, or practitioner of another specialized profession will eventually have to excel at a standardized test. Given that, why not become familiar with test-taking in secondary school?

The Cons of Standardized Testing

On the other hand, many people do not consider standardized testing to be a valuable or valid assessment tool for evaluating student performance. This is why some school systems are pushing back on things like Common Core state standards and ever more colleges are becoming test-optional. Below you’ll find some of the main arguments against standardized testing.

It Doesn’t Measure Intelligence—Only Wealth

While proponents argue that standardized tests provide an objective measure of student achievement, the data is more complicated. In fact, research suggests that the best predictor of success on the SAT is socioeconomic status rather than one’s education or grade level. Opponents of the SAT argue that this inequity arises because wealthy families have the time and money for test preparation resources and services, which essentially means that a good score can be purchased.

It Restricts Teachers’ Effectiveness and Creativity

Another major argument is that an over-reliance on test data to measure student performance negatively impacts teachers’ ability to actually do their jobs. A standardized test at the end of the school year can disrupt a teacher’s curricular plan and force him or her to cover material that might be less relevant to his or her students. Similarly, many teachers find constant testing over the course of the year to be disruptive and unproductive to student learning.

It Can Negatively Impact Students’ Confidence

Another argument is that standardized testing causes otherwise successful students to lose confidence in themselves and their abilities. Many students suffer from test anxiety, meaning that they do not perform at their usual level because they find the experience of test-taking so stressful. Evaluating a student’s performance only through an impartial test can also negatively affect graduation rates if low scores demoralize students.

It Unfairly Affects Public School Funding

Because standardized testing data is a matter of public record, it affects funding for public schools. However, many private schools are exempt from state and federal testing requirements, which means that those students are not bound to the same testing cycle. Meanwhile, public schools that face more significant challenges can end up being cut off from the state and federal support they need if their test results are not making the grade.

It’s Unfair to Certain Types of Learners

In addition to being unfair to low-income students, standardized tests often misrepresent the academic abilities of English Language Learner (ELL) students and students with special needs. Although testing accommodations exist, these tests are still designed with a particular student in mind. Opponents of standardized tests argue that anyone who deviates from that ideal, for whatever reason, is automatically at a disadvantage.

It Doesn’t Predict Future Success

Ideally, a standardized test would evaluate not just what a student knows already, but also his or her learning potential. After all, colleges that use the SAT and ACT do so because they want to admit students who will succeed on their campuses. But opponents of these tests point to research that suggests that, in fact, the SAT and ACT are poor predictors of student success at the undergraduate level.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, students and families don’t always have much of a say in what standardized tests they do or don’t have to take. That decision is generally up to schools, school districts, college admissions offices, and graduate and professional programs. No matter where you come down on the arguments for and against standardized testing, there’s a good chance you’re going to have to take a few of them over the course of your education.

Nevertheless, being knowledgeable about the subject can make you a more informed and prepared test-taker. Knowing what the goals of these tests are, as well as their potential downsides, will ultimately be an advantage as you navigate the process.


What are the pros and cons of standardized testing? ›

PRO: They help teachers to identify areas for improvement. CON: Standardized tests cause stress and anxiety for children. PRO: They help keep schools accountable to policymakers. CON: Teachers 'teach to the test' which leads to the lower-quality rote learning method of teaching.

What are the pros of standardized testing? ›

Standardized exams can show student improvement over time by taking the same tests over time. In addition, student test scores can also be easily compared to each other to show changes in progress. Ensure that all educational stakeholders are held accountable.

What are the benefits of standardized testing for college admissions? ›

SAT scores help colleges compare students from different high schools. Your scores show your strengths and readiness for college work. But remember standardized test scores are just one part of your college application, along with grades, course rigor, and recommendations.

What are the pros and cons of assignments? ›

Check Out The Pros and Cons of Homework
  • Pro 1: Homework Helps to Improve Student Achievement. ...
  • Con 1: Too Much Homework Can Negatively Affect Students. ...
  • Pro 2: Homework Helps to Reinforce Classroom Learning. ...
  • Con 2: Takes Away From Students Leisure Time. ...
  • Pro 3: Homework Gets Parents Involved with Children's Learning.
Feb 10, 2023

What are the 3 types of standardized tests? ›

16.2: Types of standardized tests
  • Achievement tests.
  • Diagnostic tests.
  • Aptitude tests.
  • High-stakes testing by states.
Feb 27, 2021

What are the three main purposes of standardized testing? ›

The main purposes for standardized testing are to compare student achievement, to serve as an accountability measurement for teachers/schools/school districts, and to provide the necessary information for data-driven instruction.

How does standardized testing negatively affect students? ›

Standardized tests reduce the richness of human experience and human learning to a number or set of numbers. This is dehumanizing. A student may have a deep knowledge of a particular subject, but receive no acknowledgement for it because his or her test score may have been low.

What is one of the advantages of standardized testing quizlet? ›

The main benefit of standardized tests is they are typically more reliable and valid than non-standardized measures.

Should students have homework pros and cons? ›

The pros and cons of homework
  • Teachers And Students Working Together. ...
  • Brings Families Closer Together. ...
  • Teaches The Child How To Be Responsible. ...
  • The Child Needs Relaxation Time. ...
  • Decrease In Socialization. ...
  • Increase In Conflicts Between Parent And Child.

Do standardized tests predict college success? ›

Using SAT scores in conjunction with HSGPA is the most powerful way to predict future academic performance. On average, SAT scores add 15% more predictive power above grades alone for understanding how students will perform in college.

Do standardized tests cause stress? ›

Stress and its effect on the brain might be one reason that students from low-income neighborhoods tend to fare worse on high-stakes tests. Children are affected by standardized testing, with some seeing their cortisol levels spike on testing days, and others seeing it drop, which might lead them to disengage.

How does standardized testing affect college students? ›

While they aren't required for every school, they provide a great opportunity for your student to enhance their application. These exams help colleges and universities evaluate a large number of applications and ensure that they are ready for the rigor of college academics.

Why standardized tests matter beyond college admissions? ›

Use standardized exams as opportunities to bolster and review the skill sets you have learned. Such tests can also build focus, study habits and academic stamina that will help you adjust to the difficulties of college.

How do standardized tests prepare students for college? ›

Standardized Tests Prepare Students for College

Tests like the ACT and SAT give students the chance to show they are smart and motivated, so they will not be judged on their high schools when applying for college. And passing some specific standardized tests is required to gain entry to some degree programs.

What are the benefits of pros and cons? ›

Weighing up pros and cons can speed up the decision-making process, improve your understanding of the situation, and help you avoid decision-making paralysis . Using a simple "pros" and "cons" list encourages you to approach your decision objectively, without letting your "gut feeling" impact your choice.

What is a list of pros and cons? ›

What Is a Pros and Cons List? A pros and cons list is a chart that helps you make a decision. On the pros side of the list, you add all of the positive outcomes of a decision. On the cons side, you add all of the adverse outcomes.

What are examples of pros and cons? ›

There are pros and cons to having children. I'm weighing the pros and cons of moving to another state. The pros and cons of using a laptop for work are debatable. The pros and cons of taking a day off work are clear.

What are the two most important characteristics of a standardized test? ›

The characteristics of standardised test are as follows:
  • Validity − The test has to be devised to measure what it claims to measure in order to be held as valid and usable.
  • Reliability − This refers to the consistency of scores obtainedby an individual on the same test on two different occasions.

What are the two main types of standardized tests? ›

The SAT and the IQ test are examples of aptitude tests. One's score on the SAT is said to be a good indicator of his or her future performance in the first year of college, while the IQ test indicates scholastic aptitude or a student's ability to solve certain problems involved in schoolwork (www.

What are examples of standardized testing? ›

Standardized tests are often used to select students for specific programs. For example, the SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test) and ACT (American College Test) are norm referenced tests used to help determine if high school students are admitted to selective colleges.

What is the most common standardized test? ›

The Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) is a college admission standardized test that many students take every year.

How does standardized testing affect students confidence? ›

These students become too harsh on themselves and develop low self-esteem. Standardized tests also affect motivation in the classroom. Some students may become completely disengaged as they know that test scores can't be more valuable than actual comprehension of the material.

What are the negative impacts of testing? ›

The pitfall in question is sometimes referred to as the negative testing effect. Essentially, what that means is that in some situations, taking a test can actually hurt learning instead of showing a benefit. In one study (1), participants read lists of unrelated rhyming words (e.g. pickle-nickle; feel-steel).

What are the advantages and disadvantages of standardization? ›

A second advantage is that it can reduce costs by enabling all hotels in a chain to take advantage of economies of scale and negotiate lower prices from suppliers. The main disadvantage to standardization is that it reduces the flexibility of a chain to cater for regional tastes and expectations.

Why is standardized testing not helpful? ›

Standardized tests don't accurately measure student learning and growth. Unlike standardized tests, performance-based assessment allows students to choose how they show learning. Performance-based assessment is equitable, accurate, and engaging for students and teachers.

What are four advantages of standardization? ›

Rationalize different varieties of products. Decrease the volume of products in the store and also the manufacturer cost. Improve the management and design. Speed up the management of orders.

Who invented homework 😡? ›

Roberto Nevelis of Venice, Italy, is often credited with having invented homework in 1095—or 1905, depending on your sources.

What are the three disadvantages of homework? ›

In fact, too much homework can do more harm than good. Researchers have cited drawbacks, including boredom and burnout toward academic material, less time for family and extracurricular activities, lack of sleep and increased stress.

What are 3 benefits of homework? ›

Homework teaches students how to problem solve. Homework gives student another opportunity to review class material. Homework gives parents a chance to see what is being learned in school. Homework teaches students how to take responsibility for their part in the educational process.

Do standardized tests truly reveal a students knowledge? ›

Standardized tests can only, at best, evaluate rote knowledge of math, science, and English. The tests do not evaluate creativity, problem solving, critical thinking, artistic ability, or other knowledge areas that cannot be judged…

Why should colleges not look at standardized test scores? ›

Standardized tests are a poor measure of college readiness and intelligence, which diminishes their overall credibility. Standardized tests, such as the SAT and ACT, do not test in every field of education. Therefore, it is unfair as most students tend to accelerate better in certain classes over others.

Do standardized test scores reflect intelligence? ›

FAQs. Is standardized testing a good way to assess intelligence? Intelligence is not measured by standardized tests. The only quality exams demonstrate is a student's ability to memorize or cram knowledge, which they all likely forgot as quickly as they learned it.

Do standardized tests really matter? ›

Standardized testing can also help standardize individual students' educations. In addition to comparing students against one another or identifying problematic schools or districts, standardized tests can also illustrate student progress over time.

What is the fear of standardized testing? ›

Symptoms of Test Anxiety

Although it may feel as if you're about to die, you're not. These are the most common symptoms of test anxiety: Mental: Lack of concentration, negative thoughts, comparing yourself to others, catastrophizing (thinking the worst) Emotional: Anger, helplessness, disappointment, fear, dread.

Is there too much emphasis on standardized testing? ›

“Business leaders want more accountability for teachers, but they are deeply concerned about one of the main tools used to evaluate teachers and students: standardized tests. More than three-fifths (62 percent) think there is too much emphasis put on preparing students for standardized tests.

Why are colleges moving away from standardized testing? ›

The university suspended the use of standardized test scores for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 academic years due to hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and to mitigate harmful impacts for prospective applicants.

How does standardized testing affect student dropout rates? ›

In a study done by Harvard University, it was observed that students who placed in the lower 10% of standardized tests were 33% more likely to drop out, especially when expected to pass an exam for graduation.

What percent of colleges look at standardized test scores? ›

More than 80 percent of U.S. colleges and universities do not require applicants to take standardized tests like the SAT or the ACT. That proportion of institutions with test-optional policies has more than doubled since the spring of 2020.

How long have standardized tests been used for college admissions? ›

Standardized tests were used when people first entered the US to test social roles and find social power and status. The College Entrance Examination Board did not offer standardized testing for university and college admission until 1900. Their first examinations were administered in 1901, in nine subjects.

What is a Standardised test for college admission in the United States? ›

For undergraduate admissions, required standardized tests usually include: Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) American College Testing (ACT)

How long have standardized tests been used for college admissions *? ›

1959: ACTs are introduced

The first American College Testing (ACT) exams were administered in 1959, with sections on math, English, social studies, and natural science. Students were given 45 minutes for each section. The standardized test became widely accepted in college admissions across the country.

How does standardized testing benefit students? ›

Without the tests, students, teachers, and administrators lose valuable information about whether students need specific remediation, are right on track, or are ready for more advanced subject material. Standardized tests provide current and relevant information about a student's profile of academic skills.

How does standardized testing make students feel? ›

Standardized testing affects mental health negatively. Standardized testing has high standards that many students fear. These types of tests also cause many parents to expect a certain score for their child. This can cause many mental issues as students are studying for long periods of time and stressing about a test.

Why are standardized tests criticized? ›

Some fear that standardized testing could increase students' likelihood to cheat. Critics of standardized testing believe that children should be evaluated in a number of ways, rather than by using only one system to assess the needs and learning of students.

What are the pros of students having homework? ›

Homework teaches students how to set priorities. Homework helps teachers determine how well the lessons are being understood by their students. Homework teaches students how to problem solve. Homework gives student another opportunity to review class material.

How do standardized tests affect students? ›

Standardized testing affects mental health negatively. Standardized testing has high standards that many students fear. These types of tests also cause many parents to expect a certain score for their child. This can cause many mental issues as students are studying for long periods of time and stressing about a test.

What is the biggest issue with standardized testing? ›

The problem of standardized testing is that it has less to do with the development of kids and a lot more to do with funding, which starts at the top of the federal hierarchy. Schools rely on test scores and graduation rates to acquire the same, or better, federal funding for the next year.

Why are standardized tests a poor way of assessing learning? ›

They fail to measure such important attributes as creativity and critical thinking skills. Studies indicate that standardized tests reward superficial thinking and may discourage more analytical thinking.

Why standardized testing is unfair for poor students? ›

For decades, critics have complained that many standardized tests are unfair because the questions require a set of knowledge and skills more likely to be possessed by children from privileged backgrounds''(p.

Are standardized tests a good measure of student learning? ›

Key Takeaways. Standardized tests don't accurately measure student learning and growth. Unlike standardized tests, performance-based assessment allows students to choose how they show learning. Performance-based assessment is equitable, accurate, and engaging for students and teachers.


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