Tag Archives: standardized tests

I recently had the good fortune of being invited to take an official ACT in my own home by computer. As a lifelong student of standardized testing, I’m never going to turn down the opportunity to learn something new while challenging my skills. And now that I’ve taken the test, the educator in me demands that I share my insights on this new twist on an old test. What did I learn by taking the ACT on computer? 1. I still got it! While performing at a high level obviously matters to me, I have nothing but professional pride on the line. Elite performance can be difficult to achieve without a real incentive, and I already have my college degree, thank you. Apparently, though, I can still turn it on when needed 😉 2. Testing on a computer takes longer. I spoke at length with ACT Senior Director of Research…

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Most of the world looks at tests as, at best, necessary evils. Some hold exams of every stripe even lower in their esteem, considering tests malicious wastes of time. However, considering how pervasive assessments are in academic and professional circles, we can all benefit from a bit of perspective. Before you condemn a test, consider its context and intrinsic merit. This is not to say that all tests have value. If we’ve learned nothing from the opt-out movement inspired by Common Core exams that seemed to test students but grade schools and teachers, it’s that some exams truly are pointless. But most as instruments of education and assessment serve their purpose admirably, whether you respect them or not. Anyone aiming to ace their big tests might want to stop sneering and start understanding why the tests matter in the first place. For example, most colleges and graduate institutions require some…

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When someone mentions “tests,” the emotion that flowers in our heads, hearts, or the pits of our stomachs rarely resembles love. Anxiety typically tops the list, but feelings range along an emotional spectrum that encompasses irritation, fear, and flat-out hate. Many become irrational at the very mention of tests; at least one infamous crank has made a cottage industry out of whining about standardized tests. So why do I love tests? I love the challenge of a well-designed test, both the methodical ingenuity behind each question and the inexorable gauntlet of the test as a whole. I love the opportunity to compete against a potential pool of millions of test takers, past, present, and future. And, because I’ve always been good at most tests, I love to win… nailing a particularly tough test feels like a profound victory. However, my personal reasons for appreciating oft-maligned assessments do not, in themselves,…

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Every challenge tests more than expected at first glance. The path to fame as a performer, for example, demands talent, but also hustle, charisma, and connections. Success in sports also stems not just from physical conditioning and mastery of a dedicated skill set but also a slew of professional and psychological qualities that separate champions from the rest. Standardized exams are no exception to this rule. Of course you need to master the content and strategies that lead to maximum points on every section of a given test. Of course you also need to learn the structure of the exam inside-out so you can perfect your time management plan and test day routine. Of course you even need to give serious thought to what kind of snacks, clothes, watch, calculator, and even pencils you might bring to a given exam. But do you really need to pay attention to little…

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Tests are scary, right? People shouldn’t be judged on a single day’s performance, especially when high-stakes testing is so stressful. And what can a multiple-choice test say about a person anyway? Wouldn’t the college admissions process be more fair if schools stopped using the SAT or ACT? Just to be clear, those are not my sentiments. Instead, I’m trying to channel the arguments of the champions of test-optional admissions, which is often lumped in with those who simply hate every form and application of standardized testing. Both factions found reason to celebrate back in 2015 with the very public announcement that Hampshire College would not to accept SAT or ACT scores from applicants. This was a significant step beyond test-optional into a realm where standardized test scores have no value whatsoever in admissions. Instead, according to the president of the college, a more holistic admissions process reigns at Hampshire: In…

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For as long as standardized exams like the SAT and ACT have been part of the college admissions process–a long time, indeed–they’ve been mistaken for conventional intelligence tests. This misconception makes sense. After all, the SAT and ACT are standardized tests, and intelligence appears to play a major role in success on these exams. That does not mean, however, that they are the same.  Traditional intelligence testing dates back to the turn of the 20th century, debuting in France and then making a splash in the United States. The various intelligence tests evaluate markers of general intelligence, often referred to as intelligence quotient or simply IQ. Of course, defining intelligence itself poses pernicious challenges, especially to those who ascribe to the Theory of Multiple Intelligences. However, general intelligence, also known as g, encompasses both crystallized and fluid intelligence, basically knowledge and problem solving ability respectively. Below these broad categories lie specific…

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