Standardized testing. We all have to suffer through it and take tests upon tests upon tests just because we’re supposed to. But why? What is the actual purpose of each of these tests, and when did get implemented? How important are they actually? I started asking around, and no one really had the answers I was looking for. The logical solution was to find the answers myself and share them with you to save you the trouble.
Let’s start out with something relatively simple: Advanced Placement tests. AP tests are all taken around the month of May after taking the AP class. Because these are college level classes, colleges want proof that you actually learned the content. It was actually implemented all the way back in 1952 after World War II in an attempt to bridge the gap between high school and college education. There were eleven subject tests at that point with one hundred and four participating high schools and one hundred and thirty participating colleges. Over the past sixty odd years, the College Board has been able to widely expand the program. In 2013, there were 18,920 high school participating along with 4,027 colleges, as Mental Floss reports. It’s a great way for high school students to prepare for college coursework in addition to looking very good on college applications.
Next let’s tackle something a bit more tricky: the SBAC test. It’s a more recent assessment, having been established in 2009 and fully implemented in 2015 as a new measure of student and school achievement. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t even know what SBAC stood for before this article. All I knew was that it was a giant annoying english and math test right in the middle of all my other tests junior year and that it didn’t matter to colleges. But I didn’t actually know that, it was just what I had heard. And let me tell you that’s not all there is to the story. SBAC stands for Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and essentially evaluates how your teachers and school are doing (which can be found on the Smarter Balanced website). It helps determine school ranking, and can affect school and department funding. So if you decide that this test is useless and you’re not going to do your best on it, it can have a major effect on our school. Even though it’s a drag and poorly timed, you should still give it your best shot.
If you’re planning on applying to a four year college, you probably also know that you’ll have to take the SAT and/or ACT. The SAT is ran by the same College Board in charge of the AP Tests and was started all the way back in 1926. The ACT was established as a competitor to it in 1959. Colleges require these tests with writing so they can narrow down the playing field from their hundreds of thousands of applicants. They are also often required for scholarships, giving them a view of you beyond GPA and grades. Although they know it’s important, a lot of students don’t know the differences between them, and which test they should take, or if they should both.
According to Josh Moody of USA News, the SAT has around 150 questions, while the ACT has 215 questions within a shorter time frame. If you can think quickly and take multiple choice tests well, the ACT might be a better choice for you. If you need a bit more time to review the content, the SAT may be more your speed. The tests also vary in content. They both have reading, writing, and math, but the ACT adds science into the mix. If you excel in science and aren’t as strong in math, it might be a better choice than the SAT.
Standardized testing obviously isn’t the most thrilling part of high school. But it is a necessary part of it in one form or the other. Whether you only end up taking the SBAC or take every test available for you, remember that it will turn out okay. These tests are an opportunity to show off how much you’ve learned. Having more information about the test will allow you to do your absolute best on whatever you end up taking.