Opinion: The Future of Testing

The standardized testing system was meant to be a fair, helpful tool for evaluating student progress, but its results are beginning to lose their credibility.

Owen Hite, Reporter

For many juniors and seniors, the next several weeks will be jammed with studying as they hunker down in front of textbooks in preparation for May’s AP testing. Some will excel on the three-hour exams; others may not even receive a passing grade at all. Either way, these students will have a year’s worth of strenuous coursework reduced to a single number, 1-5. It’s a score that helps dictate their course requirements at a college or university, but it’s also one that dictates self-esteem and morale.


If a student receives a less than satisfactory score, why would they want to suffer through another challenging class in the future if performing poorly on the final test will negate their efforts? Faced with the unpleasant slap of failing a test, why would students again put themselves in such a risky situation? They likely won’t, and they shouldn’t. 


The standardized testing system was meant to be a fair, helpful tool for evaluating student progress, but its results are beginning to lose their credibility. In multiple choice assessments, for example, guessing is a normalized approach. In fact, students are coached to guess if they don’t know the answer. On free-response prompts, it’s easy enough to drop the question into Google and write out the first answer on the screen. 


The testing system is so deeply flawed that many colleges and universities are beginning to catch on, halting their SAT requirements for several years to come. However, pausing and resuming is not the fix for the testing issue; a new method is. Testing should move to an experimental, lab based approach to more accurately mimic what students would actually use their skills and knowledge for. Students don’t major in test-taking. They don’t innovate the world with True-False questions. So why, then, should testing be their primary measure of success? 


In a future of testing consisting of hands-on tasks and relevant problems to solve, they will be better prepared for what lies ahead in the workplace. Students can excel by demonstrating skills instead of regurgitating flashcards, and they can thrive in a natural environment rather than floundering in front of a pencil and paper.


Arguably, one of the largest obstacles obstructing a new form of testing besides fear of change is the loss of the testing effect. The term is a psychological principle declaring that long term memory can be increased by having to recall and retrieve stored information about a subject. The testing effect, similar to testing, is also unnecessary in the world of Google, where information is effortlessly retrieved. Whatsmore, retrieval and recall both still occur when performing tasks in labs or workplace scenarios, so written testing has no greater effect on memory than physical simulations do.


Due to its anxiety-inducing, self-esteem shredding history, standardized testing deserves no place in our schools. With its absence, students would again enjoy challenging themselves in fascinating courses, because they would be free to practice the skills they learn rather than write about them. Schools ultimately need to let their students learn to improvise and experiment with the real world instead of continuing to trap them inside testing’s restrictive environment.