Do Standardized Tests Reflect Students’ Abilities?

Standardized test are not an effective tool.


Photo By: Morgan Brickell

At least once a year students spend hours in one seat taking a test: a standardized test. Ranging from a test that measures students’ abilities to a test that determines where they will get into college. Do standardized tests actually reflect students’ abilities? 

Early at 8 a.m students arrive at school to take a test that determines their future. For some students, they are ready to go and wide awake while others are still sleepy. Since many of these tests, like the ACT, can be taken multiple times, students do not feel the same every time they take them, causing a variety in their scores, FairTest said. Though the questions are the same many things affect the students’ abilities the day they take it. This can include their mental state and readiness. Student Michaela Fox states, “One test does not determine students’ true abilities because people have good and bad days for testing.” Students’ abilities are not reflected in one day.

Standardized tests contain the same formulas for questions year after year. These questions are multiple-choice and are the same questions for every student. This does not allow students to have the chance to show their intelligence or thinking in-depth about questions. The wording oftentimes is not worded to everyone’s ability to understand the question nor answers.

Student Sophie Swagler said, “I think standardized testing, in theory, is great but the practice isn’t working. It’s not an accurate measurement of how smart or capable a person is. Also, some teachers only teach with the test in mind.” Swagler is just one of the many students who think standardized tests are not reliable in measuring students’ abilities.  

An argument aside from standardized tests that often comes up in school is if schools could do more to teach information that is helpful in real life. Standardized tests contain no information that has anything to do with real-life situations, meaning these tests truly do not determine where students will be in 10 years. Teenagers often have an idea of what they are interested in as a future career. Standardized tests do not test students’ abilities of what they are interested in and want to pursue in the future. 

Sami Frost Using Her Calculator. Photo By: Morgan Brickell

Standardized tests do not show how a student learns or thinks which is not helpful for teachers, FairTest said. Standardized tests do not help teachers understand what students need improvement in. 

Standardized tests measure students’ abilities to take the test and not the actual concepts of the test. There are other ways to measure students’ abilities that are scored personalized to a student’s abilities. According to, sampling, game-based assessments, multiple measures, and portfolio-based assessments are all alternatives to standardized testing. If these alternatives were used, measuring students’ abilities would be more accurate.

The most effective way is the multiple measures alternative, which is using a series of different tests instead of one. This way students are measured more than one way and can be tested on multiple levels ranging from social and emotional to performance-based. It is important to measure students skills as a human, such as their social skills. Performance-based assessments can help teachers and parents see where their child is in certain areas so they know where they need improvement. 

As a teen who takes standardized tests and has had bad luck on test days in the past from not being able to focus to throwing up three times while taking my test, there are definitely better ways to measure students’ abilities. Standardized tests do not measure students’ abilities.