Should we be Shifting the Locus of Control?

Ever since the third grade, I dreaded standardized tests. The words “No material on this page” still burn my memory. For this reason, the Addison article greatly interested me. When beginning to learn about education, specifically special education, my hatred of filling in bubbles became a cause that I cared to study and challenge. Many of the programs being advocated by our government place standardized testing at the forefront of judging a person’s intelligence. This article claims the same, but personally, offers an interesting counterargument hidden within the text.

“The SAT writing test is shown to be the second best single predictor of college success after HSGPA.”

What research has shown, is that the final cumulated score of a standardized test do not predict future academic success, but rather, independent thinking and writing to be second after one’s high school GPA. Personally, this proves that the standardization of questions in a multiple choice format lacks to provide evidence of intelligence beyond the ability to easily compare numbers. If writing and high school GPA are the best predictors of success, why do colleges look so closely at SAT or ACT scores? Are there better ways of judging someone’s intelligence? Finally, what are other methods could our government use to test on a large scale, that do not include scantrons or filling in bubbles?

6 thoughts on “Should we be Shifting the Locus of Control?”

  1. I think the ease of standardized testing is what’s made it so popular. It’s a lot simpler to grade scantrons than short answer essays with nuance in them. While some of these exams do have writing components, they’re designed to be relatively objective. This may not be the exact result, but it does give the system some conformity.

    The problem here is deciding what is reliable. GPA trends may be better at predicting results, but GPA is incredibly variable. In my high school, for instance, there were no weighted GPAs. An A grade in remedial English and an A in Honors or AP English were worth the same. To go further, an A from my high school may not be worth an A from some highly competitive private school with better resources and greater expectations. Standardized testing helps turn these wild changes into something consistent. A 36 on the ACT is the same no matter where the exam was taken.

    In the vetting process, standardized testing can be helpful to approximate. Of course, the drawback is that it can’t fully account for drive or results over time, as GPA might. In the same way, a high exam score can help a student who maybe changed their lives at some point and went from a C to an A student. A high score isn’t as easily erased as a good semester might be.

    Testing on a larger scale is incredibly difficult without these tools. Exams with essays and short answers have tell us more about the student, but they also involve more grey area. A right multiple choice answer is right, with no debate about it. However, an essay involves interpretation. Perhaps there’s some mix of writing and knowledge that aren’t equal. As in, a poorly written essay that still shows incredibly in depth knowledge of the subject. How does one decide how to weigh these? There still need to be standards, and on top of this, it now takes an astronomically longer time to grade these essays, since they must be graded by people, and read thoroughly.

    I think the best option comes down to a mixture of factors. Standardized testing could benefit from a little more soul–something to distinguish people, and to look closer at long term results. The problem is, we need to devote more time and effort to individuals, but we’re faced with a diverse and quite large population. Judging someone’s intelligence has to be done on a personal level. It seems to me as though these are necessary evils to bring those who tend towards better habits or skills to the attention of those looking for them.

  2. I agree, I think standardized testing is used as a tool simply because it is easy to grade. Being able to easily assign students numbers that represent their intelligence compared to students across the country makes it easy for colleges to create a cutoff of who to accept and who to deny. In terms of finding a solution, I’m not sure if one exists. I think that testing, at least on the standardized level seems to always be twisted to an achievement test, where the ones with the greater resources and means can do better. I come from a affluent area, where SAT scores were ways that students and parents alike could brag to one another. When I heard my friend’s SAT scores in college, it blew me away. Some of the smartest people I have met here, who I think are much more intelligent than I am, had much lower SAT scores than me. For this reason, I do not trust that any standardized test will do the job they need to, accurately predict one’s success in their future, independent of their background. In the college application process, the part that I felt was most fair was the interview process. In meeting someone, discussing grades, classes, aspirations, etc. I think you can learn a lot about an individual. In that way, I agree with Bayna above. I think that a combination of all factors would be the best tool. If programs can somehow weigh each aspect evenly, I think it would allow each student to get a more holistic view to them.

  3. Not to be unoriginal, but I also agree with Bayna and Maharsi. The modern world is always looking for ways to standardize and expedite tasks, and in the world of grading, scantron tests such as the ACTs and the SATs are the perfect way to accomplish just that. Additionally, the standardized nature of these types of tests allows for some level of objectivity in results. The results may not accurately portray each individual’s academic ability or intelligence, but they do assure (to some degree) that the results are unbiased.

    In regard to a solution…. I honestly don’t know if we will ever find one. Aptitude and intelligence are both so intangible and elusive that it makes them incredibly hard to simplify to a number or grade. If we knew more about how cerebral function specifically influenced intelligence and aptitude in various areas, then perhaps we could determine those characteristics objectively by measuring brain activity in one way or another. However, the current feasibility of that approach is essentially zero, and I don’t see it coming to fruition any time soon. So as it stands right now, there is no apparent means (to me at least) by which we can more accurately measure intelligence than the standardized, typical IQ test.

  4. In cases when applying to college, and now graduate school, I have had the case where my standardized test scores benefited me, and when they did not. As a high school junior/senior preparing to take the SAT, PSSA’s, and various AP tests, I felt that I was well prepared based on what my school had taught me. In many of my classes during the testing months, we would put on hold the topics we were learning to learn how to be “good test takers,” and embody the skills that would get us the scores we needed. The material I was tested on was something I worked with every day; I had a hour long English class, followed by 2 different math classes, then History, then art, etc. My schedule was very diverse and allowed many opportunities in all of my classes to learn good test taking abilities. Many of these topics were tested on the SAT, PSSA, and AP tests, and helped me obtain the competitive scores I needed.

    Onto my senior year of college, preparing to take the GRE was a completely different ball game, and because of this, I have very mixed feelings about how my scores are used to judge my ability to further my education. As a science major, who has been taking classes surrounding the various natural sciences, math, reading and writing were courses that were not emphasized in my major. If they were, it was in a way that worked with the material, such as learning how to read and analyze scientific writing and reproduce it effectively. When I had to prepare for the GRE it took months of preparation to learn 200+ words I have never seen before and reteach myself many math elements I have not seen since freshman year. Even with all of my preparation I only obtained slight above average scores, and this is how my future college/university is going to establish if I am a good student for the program? Many of these institutions use this as a cut off. If you can’t meet the score then you are not looked at. I find this to be unfair, because I have worked very hard to get where I am (both in and out of school), and I feel like those experiences should weight more heavily then how I perform on a standardized test that thousands of people are taking for various reasons (i.e. different grad programs such as writing, chemistry, biology).

    With all of this in mind, I think it would be too difficult to eliminate standardized testing. In some ways it is beneficial because it allows us to compare our knowledge with other countries and strive to do better by implementing new programs. However, I do find it to be hindering in some aspects – some students are not good test takers, or the material they were tested on is not relevant to their field of study. The only suggestion I have would be to create another avenue, such as looking at field experience, grades, and actually meeting them, before suggesting a standardized test to evaluate that specific person.

  5. Colleges have a hard decision on deciding who to accept and who to decline every year. Each year they have thousands of applications to run through so it is obvious that they use the SAT and ACT just because of how quick it is to analyze and then label if you are “smart” or not. Now that I think about it and how unfair standardized test scores tend to be on some people, I really do not think there is a better option for kids applying to extra schooling. I really do not see a solution to this problem of government based tests and how they may/may not really be accurate judgments of people’s level of learning. Being a person that didn’t do particularly well on SAT’s I found it easier and more motivating to focus on other parts of the application so that the colleges I applied to can get the idea of who the real me is. So I am really not against the whole idea of the college admissions process because I do believe it gives each and every student a fair chance to get what they want. It just depends on how you want to show your strengths to a college. Sure, ACT and SAT’s may be an important factor, but they are not the only one. Things like an interview, career experience, and essay all provide additional platforms to show who you are and can be.

  6. I would say I pretty much agree with the posters above. I think that even though standardized tests are unfair, they do give some valuable information about people. They can give a more complete picture of a person when combined with GPA, extracurricular activities, etc. I think that the best option is for colleges to consider things other than standardized tests more strongly. Some schools have made the ACT/SAT optional, which I think is a good way of letting standardized test provide a fuller picture for people who feel like it could help them, but not have adverse effects on people who did poorly on standardized tests.

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