Standardized Testing | Teen Ink

Standardized Testing

August 23, 2009
By Alex Curtis BRONZE, Seattle, Washington
Alex Curtis BRONZE, Seattle, Washington
4 articles 0 photos 2 comments

It’s one of my fiercest enemies, I’m 100% sure you have no idea what I’m talking about, but soon enough, you will relate. You and twenty-four strangers cramped into a high school chemistry lab, on a brisk, and typically overcast Saturday morning; the malevolent, sulfuric stank of yesterday’s experiments still permeating the senses. Every one walks, no, shuffles, into the classroom, single-file, with zombie-like enthusiasm. Everyone finds a desk, except it isn’t a desk. The school you take the test at can’t afford real desks so you have to sit in one of those combination things, don’t you hate those?

On command, everyone dawns their desk with the proper equipment for battle—a calculator, two sharpened #2 pencils, a manual sharpener and a water bottle, if you get thirsty. After a few short moments, each kid commences their journey into the ultra-mundane, redundant, obvious, and irrational: the standardized test.

Now, I, and I would assume, all of you, are not totally unfamiliar with the ritual of test taking, for we’ve been doing it all our lives. Ever since the ITBS and the WASL, we were singled out among the rest of our peers, and sometimes ridiculed. Since then we’ve taken the ISEE, some twice, and we’ve PSAT, at least once. Others may be the American standard SAT, SAT II, AP or ACT. Pick you’re poison.

Ever since coming to Lakeside, the stigma one receives for academic prowess is clearly lessened, if not embraced. However, I also see this as a breeding ground for over-achievement, a feeling that is only propagated by tests. Constant talk of percentiles, fractiles, dectiles and quartiles make me want to projectile. In the few moments of break I have a week, nervous energy devoted to Ivy League colleges is the last thing I want to hear.

Not only are these tests inconvenient and unhelpful, but they at their worst, are extremely dehumanizing. I cannot count the number of times, when filling in the basic information section on the SAT, coming across the part of the test where the prompter says: “If you are an, African American please check the box for the National Scholarship Service Program”. Given the demographics of Seattle, someone from say, New York or Atlanta or D.C. would probably call it “wonder bread”. So you can kind of imagine the kind of limelight I’m thrust into.
Now I am not a fan of any test; whether it’s geometry, physics, Spanish, history, and yes, even English. But the pursuit of “excellence” causes many people to become trapped in the maze a multiple choice questions and 25 minute essays. When am I ever going to have to find the circumference of a circle with a radius of 2 cm? When will I ever have to write an essay about the importance of defiance in American culture? I doubt I’ll ever be in a life or death situation where someone asks me to use proper subject-verb agreement. The point is, these tests are based on essentially useless information, and people know that. So if you feel like I do, stand up for yourself, colleges like leaders right?

The author's comments:
This was originally written as a speech for English class about how standardized testing is my biggest pet peeve.

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This article has 12 comments.

on Dec. 14 2010 at 7:03 pm
baciobecca BRONZE, Portland, Oregon
1 article 0 photos 2 comments

Favorite Quote:
"If you do not raise your eyes you will think that you are the highest point." - Antonio Porichia
OR "The bluebird carries the sky on his back." - Henry David Thoreau

Hi. Sorry, I gave you one star. That wasn't my intention. If I could redo it I'd probably give you three stars.


I am a senior in high school and I took the SAT Reasoning test three times and the Subject Tests once. I did OK on the SATs, but hear me when I say I am not a good test taker. Tests do not do a good job of representing my intelligence or learning capacity. I, too, see a lot of problems with standardized testing.


But then I also see some problems with your argument. You ask a number of rhetorical questions toward the end that could potentially work well, but didn't. You should know how to find the circumference of something because that is basic math. C=2∏r. A lot of the essay prompts are actually very reasonable. Defiance is definitely applicable to American culture. It's important that students understand how to form an analytical essay and are able to present their thoughts effectively. Though I do agree that 25 minutes is too short a time for many people to write a decent essay. And lastly, grammar is definitely important. Maybe not life or death, but... who said it was? Usually, if you want to be taken seriously you need to raise your ethos (credibility). Good grammar shows you are well-educated, and therefore your audience is more likely to believe you.


So, in conclusion, none of the examples you used can be considered "useless information." At least not in my opinion. Also, another point you should make if you ever make this argument again is that the SAT is also an unfair assessment. Many students are tutored for the SAT (I'm not condoning it. I met with a tutor a couple of times.), whereas a lot aren't. My friend's parents stuck her in SAT classes starting the summer before Freshman year. Now how is that fair? If they both take the test, who is probably going to get a better score? Probably the one who has been studying the test for the past three years. That is not testing a person's ability to think critically, but a person's ability to take a test.


However, on the opposite end of the spectrum are a couple reasons why people say the SAT should exist. For example merit scholarships often come down to SAT scores. This can be a pro or a con, but even if the SAT were to be eliminated, admissions officers would just look for something else to stress.


Personally, I hated the SATs, and I really do believe they have scarred me for life. The fact that one test date can determine your future is too final. So, I agree with your POV. :)

on Aug. 26 2010 at 9:57 pm
Tfortshering BRONZE, 70 Drive, New York
1 article 0 photos 1 comment

Favorite Quote:
There are many things in life that will catch your eye, but only a few will catch your heart. Pursue those.
~ Michael Nolan

ive been waiting for an article like this. i dont feel alone anymore by reading this. thank you for sharing your opinion :)

on Dec. 27 2009 at 11:58 am
toxic.monkey SILVER, Tashkent, Other
6 articles 0 photos 210 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Homo homini lupus"

it's funny and to the point, i think it's a really good piece :D

on Oct. 22 2009 at 5:45 am
Electricity PLATINUM, Bradenton, Florida
30 articles 0 photos 271 comments
Very well written. I liked how you formed your opinion into the article. Congratulations on making it in the headline! You must be very proud and excited!

Zaner_Black said...
on Sep. 22 2009 at 12:13 pm
Zaner_Black, Galesburg, Illinois
0 articles 0 photos 2 comments
Great Writeing! I disagree because im extremely good at tests though. They raise my grade and the state tests add self confidence...but thats just me.

LC said...
on Aug. 29 2009 at 4:01 pm
Excellent writing, and I agree it's definitely an important topic.

kabuko said...
on Aug. 29 2009 at 2:45 am
I really enjoyed this piece. I like how it appeals to teens because we all go through it at some point.

LJEvans12 said...
on Aug. 29 2009 at 2:38 am
Wow, this is an amazing piece. Very thoughtful and well written. This is a subject we can all relate too and no matter your opinion on the topic, there's no denying that this guy has some great points and voices them eloquently.

pahhhhhhhhhh said...
on Aug. 29 2009 at 2:38 am
this is a great, man. i totally feel the same way!

Peterka111 said...
on Aug. 28 2009 at 4:18 am
This is a really well written piece that really captures the emotion and feelings of a test taker. It evokes the feelings of nervousness that anyone would have in such a high pressure environment like taking the SAT, knowing it could very well determine your future.

spanky said...
on Aug. 28 2009 at 3:58 am
Well written, witty, and while I only slightly disagree on the subject, a very talented piece.

on Aug. 28 2009 at 3:23 am
Alex Curtis BRONZE, Seattle, Washington
4 articles 0 photos 2 comments
I really hope this gets on the regular site...I put a lot of time into this.