Much of the world looks at tests as, at best, necessary evils. Some hold exams of every stripe even lower in their esteem, considering them malicious wastes of time. Educators, administrators, and prep professionals, however, need to view tests in their proper light and recognize their intrinsic value.
This is not to say that all tests have value. If we’ve learned nothing from the rise of opt-out movements inspired, in part, by the botched release of Common Core assessments that seemed to test students but grade schools and teachers, it’s that some exams truly are pointless. But most tests, especially the professionally crafted ones, serve their purpose admirably, whether you respect them or not. Anyone aiming to help students pass their big tests should stop sneering and start understanding why the tests matter in the first place.
For example, most colleges and graduate institutions, despite protests to the contrary, require some sort of entrance exam as part of their application process. Complaining about these exams or railing against standardized testing in general misses a critical point: these institutions find value in the data produced by these assessments. In fact, most schools find that they make better admissions decisions when they include test scores than when they leave them out. If that’s the case, the tests themselves must have value. Once you understand why, you’re better equipped to help your students excel.
When evaluating (or creating) a test, consider the following important questions:
- Is the test valid?
- Is the test reliable?
- Is the test fair?
- Is the test designed by an expert?
- Is the test integrated into the educational or assessment process?
- Does the person taking the test derive direct benefit from it?
Every test in this world represents an opportunity to prove, prevail, assess, or advance. Rising above ignorance and emotion to learn to respect and, ultimately, trust a test will improve your ability to prepare others for it.
— Mike Bergin
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