GRAD 5114: Thoughts about Standard Test

In our second class, we watched an interesting TED talk and debated about whether we should keep standard tests and what are the best ways to evaluate learning process and the qualification of students for college or graduate programs.  It was a good discussion, even though I agree with many of the opinions about why we should remove standard test, I still think there are many reasons that we should keep them.

First of all, we need to think about the specific field of study, for instance, for field like math, biology, chemistry or physics, I do think that standard test is a still good way to show whether students have gained the skills and knowledge, especially for elementary or foundational education. However, it might not be a good way to evaluate students’ learning in arts or literatures by standard tests.  So we cannot simply say that standard tests are all not good educational methods, as they can serve as a good tool to help students learn and memorize knowledge and practice basic skills, like mind calculation in math. Personally, I have good memories and experiences about the standard tests that I took along my education path.

Second, to some extent, from the social perspective, standard test maintains some equality in the society. As I studied social work for my master’s program, I always think about the social equality issue in our lives. As getting higher education is still a privilege for certain percent of people in many societies, not everyone has the chance to go to college.  Standard tests like SAT, GRE in the U.S. and the national standard college entrance test in China play an important role in college admission process. Currently, many people both in the U.S. and China are complaining that we focus too much on the scores of the tests and we should change the admission process by adding other evaluation tools or methods. I agree that we should not evaluate students’ qualifications for college or graduate programs merely based on their test scores, but we should also be cautious about the factors that could potentially lead to social inequality, when we think about revising the admission process or get rid of standard tests. For instance, in China, all of the best universities are public schools currently, and the students from lower social economic status (SES) background could still be able to and have the opportunity to take the national standard college entrance test and go to the best universities in China. If the standard test is cancelled and replaced by other means of evaluation, like cumulative evaluations through out high school years, or add some interviews to the admission process, many those students will be put into a disadvantaged situation only because of their lower SES background, which is a very complicated issue. It’s might be the same in other societies, as we cannot eliminate potential inequalities due to human weaknesses, money, power, family relationships, etc.

I have always been a little conservative and cautious when thinking about education process, so my thoughts and opinions could seem very “old” and traditional. I expect that many people might be disagree with me, so thank you for your understanding and discussions are welcomed.


4 thoughts on “GRAD 5114: Thoughts about Standard Test”

  1. Hi,

    SES is always present whether we admit it or not. Is there also some factor of SES that plays into the performance on Standardized tests as well? What about taking time or having time to study? What about tutoring to improve scores?

    I believe that standardized tests make the field “leveler” but what kind of combination of factors do you suggest for making an evaluation method that does not factor standardized tests too much, but does not favor anyone unfairly and can focus on the merit of the students?

    This is all a slippery slope and perhaps the answer is not there yet. Even unfairly is subjective and based on the perspective of different individuals.

  2. I agree with that any education approach should not be unified for all fields and all group of people. Sometimes, traditional ways are better than modern technologies in education. But when it comes to learning, tests and exams are not the most effective way to facilitate learning. It seems that the authors of the reading papers and the TED talker all advocate that education can not be equal with teaching, teaching can not be equal with learning. In this sense, there is no need to test how much a student has learned.

  3. Hi, Yujun, your blog reminds me a lot of feelings because I share similar education background with you. I agree with you that the standard test in China provides a relatively equal opportunity to low SES group, while in USA the Ivy League’s door to the low SES group is closing. I have to admit that in certain sense I am lucky that I am a Chinese, because I don’t what my life would be if I were born in the USA.

    But I won’t support standard test complete because I am a beneficiary. We all know how students and teachers are tortured. They are studying and teaching for the score only, not for knowledge. I understand its necessity for the time being, because we haven’t worked out other ways to substitute it.

    I agree to the use of test as a reference for students to know what position they are, for teacher to know how exactly is the teaching goes. As long as it is not deterministic for students’ future, it is still a useful tool.

  4. Interesting post. Let me give you some of my thoughts based on my own experience.

    I came to the U.S. in 2011 with a Fulbright scholarship. I started studying english in 2010. I was applying for MBA’s when my advisor told me that I needed a really high GMAT and Toefl score if I wanted to go to Business school. My biggest problem was my lack of english knowledge at the moment (applications are one year before you join). My solution, learn how to crack those tests without the need of actually understanding what I was answering. Surprisingly enough I found online that are entire courses in different countries around the world on how to master those standard tests without having the knowledge or skills they demand. Therefore, I don’t trust standardized tests, I don’t think they reflect on anything rather on how good you are with those tests.

    On the other side I do agree with you, we need to have social opportunities for everyone to be able to demonstrate that they can succeed in higher education so people from lower SES can have access to education. That’s why I think one of our missions as future educators is finding effective and creative ways to change the system for good.



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