What is Standardized Testing? - Definition & Types

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  • 0:01 What Are Standardized Tests?
  • 1:13 Supporters
  • 1:50 Opponents
  • 2:19 Types of Tests
  • 5:09 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Marquis Grant
This lesson highlights the concept of standardized testing. We will also discuss the various types of standardized tests as well as learn some limitations that come with this kind of testing.

What Are Standardized Tests?

Standardized tests are often referred to as assessments. An assessment is generally defined as the collection and analysis of information about one or more students. When tests are standardized, this means that a particular group of students will take the same test that will be scored and analyzed the same way. The Score result for each student is then compared to the rest of the group to see how well the students performed.

The federal law known as No Child Left Behind, or NCLB, was created so that schools were held accountable for what students learned throughout the school year. States were required to set goals and objectives for students starting in grade three and, at the end of the year, assess whether students met the required goals and objectives. These standardized, or high stakes, tests not only provide schools, districts, and states with information about student achievement (or lack of), the tests can also determine whether or not students are promoted to the next grade level. Additionally, teachers and/or schools with high numbers of students who do not perform well on the end-of-year tests could face negative consequences as a result.


Standardized tests differ from teacher-made tests because they are not specific to any lesson or activity from the classroom. Instead, standardized tests provide more of a general overview of what students should know at a particular grade level. Those in favor of standardized tests argue that such testing holds teachers more accountable for what students should know and, when used with other assessments, should give a pretty accurate picture of student achievement. Since these types of tests are created by people who are not a part of the classroom setting, the results are considered more reliable in measuring student performance.


Arguments made against standardized tests usually center around the enormous amount of weight placed on these tests. Many teachers become fearful of poor test results and spend more time teaching to the tests rather than focusing on quality lessons and grade-level curriculum. Furthermore, tests may contain biases that prevent certain groups of students from doing well due to differences in learning style, cultural diversity, language barriers, and low socioeconomic status.

Types of Tests

There are many types of assessments used in school systems in the United States. Let's take a look at a few of the most commonly used standardized tests.

Aptitude Tests

Aptitude tests measure what a student understands about a particular subject area. For example, the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) measures student knowledge in the areas of reading, math, and essay. Scores on the SAT are used by colleges to make admission decisions. These typically show students' abilities to be successful in higher education settings.

Intelligence Tests

Typical intelligence tests are used to determine a student's mental ability. These tests can indicate whether a student's scores are high enough for the student to be placed in a gifted and talented program or low enough to be referred for special education. These types of tests are generally administered by a psychologist or anyone else trained to give the test and interpret the results.

Achievement Tests

An achievement test assesses what students should have learned throughout the school year based on their grade level. These types of tests are growing more popular not only for measuring student performance but also teacher effectiveness. Achievement tests are most often given in the areas of reading, math, and science. Students are measured by whether they performed above grade level, grade level, below grade level, and well-below grade level.

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