Standardized tests are commonly used to measure student achievement.
The basic purpose of a standardized test is to obtain an accurate, representative sample of some aspect of a person. Standardized tests are commonly used to identify student strengths and weaknesses and to select students for specific programs (e.g., gifted and talented programs). As with any test, standardized tests vary in quality. Thus, it is important that teachers use criteria, such as reliability and validity, to distinguish well-constructed from poorly constructed tests.
Standardized tests come in many varieties and yield many informative scores.
There are two main categories of standardized tests - achievement tests and aptitude tests. Achievement tests measure what has been learned while aptitude tests measure a student's potential for learning. Both achievement and aptitude tests can take the form of norm-referenced or criterion-referenced tests. Depending upon type, norm-referenced or criterion-referenced, standardized tests yield a variety of score types (e.g., grade equivalent scores, percentile ranks).
In recent years, standardized tests have been increasingly used for accountability purposes.
Over the last decade, state education agencies have begun to establish learning standards and to adopt testing programs to determine how well those standards are being met. In addition, standardized tests are also being used to make decisions about teacher rewards or demotions, school district funds and accreditation, and student promotion. Using standardized tests in these ways is commonly known as high stakes testing. High stakes testing has been criticized because of misinterpretation/misuse of results and adverse side effects.
Technology has been developed for all phases of testing - preparation, administration, and scoring.
Technology has assisted in test preparation by supplying a myriad of preparatory materials such as self-testing guides, exemplars, and problem-solving scenarios. In recent years, technology has also been used in administering and scoring tests. Many standardized tests, like the ACT or SAT, may now be taken on the computer. In addition, several national testing services have begun to use computer programs to grade items such as essays.