ERIC Identifier: ED315435
Publication Date: 1989-02-00
Author: Bagin, Carolyn Boccella
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse
on Tests Measurement and Evaluation Washington DC., American Institutes for
Research Washington DC.
Talking to Your High School Students about Standardized Tests.
ERIC Digest No. 105.
Although your school district may have counselors or testing specialists who
explain standardized test procedures and test results to high school students,
as a teacher, your students may look to you for some answers about testing.
This digest explains basic elements about tests and gives you some hints so
that you can help your students feel comfortable with standardized tests. If
your students understand the role that standardized tests play in their school
careers, they may be more at ease when they take them, and thus, may perform
better on them.
WHAT ARE STANDARDIZED TESTS?
Usually created by commercial
test publishers, standardized tests are designed to give a common measure of
students' performance. They help compare an individual student's performance
with the performance of a group of students from a given class, school, or
school system. Since large numbers of students throughout the country take the
same test, "standards" can be developed to show whether school programs are
succeeding or how students are performing.
Different types of standardized tests have different purposes. Standardized
achievement tests measure how much your students have already learned about
school subjects such as reading, math, language skills, spelling, or science. On
the other hand, standardized aptitude tests measure your students' ability to
learn in school. They measure verbal ability, mechanical ability, creativity,
clerical ability, or abstract reasoning. Some popular tests include the
California Achievement Tests (CAT), the Stanford Achievement Test (SAT), the
Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS), or the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale.
Your students need to understand that standardized tests have limitations;
they give isolated snapshots of their performance at a specific time. You can
help them learn that tests do not measure perfectly what students can or cannot
do. Students have skills and abilities that standardized tests cannot measure
and many factors can affect their scores on a particular test. In fact, test
scores can vary from day to day.
HOW CAN YOU HELP YOUR STUDENTS PREPARE FOR A TEST?
your students take a standardized test, review these tips so that they are ready
to do their best.
Before the test... 1. Help your students understand that testing is a normal
school activity. When they reach particular grade levels, students throughout
the country take standardized tests as part of planned school programs. 2. Tell
your students the purpose of the test they will take, how long they will wait
for test results, and how the test results will be used. 3. Explain how they
will receive the test results--if the results will be mailed directly to their
homes and if, as a matter of course, their counselors will schedule meetings to
discuss them. 4. Briefly explain normal testing procedures. Tell them when and
where they will take the test, how long the test will take, and what kind of
pencils they should have. Tell them to arrive early at the test site; it will
help them remain calm. If you monitor the test, be sure all the students fully
understand the test directions. 5. Many students are unfamiliar with timed tests
and, thus, become anxious about them. It may help if they practice answering
timed questions on their own sometime before the test day. If the testing
company provides practice booklets, encourage your students to use them; they
help in understanding how the particular test works. 6. Tell your students to
carefully mark each answer. If they have to erase an answer, they must erase it
thoroughly to register their intended responses. 7. Remind your students that
they'll have to stay aware of the time throughout the entire test and, if they
finish early, they should review their answers. 8. Guessing can have a great
impact your students' results. Find out how the particular test is scored and if
students are penalized for guessing. 9. Tell your students not to spend too much
time on any one question. They may find it helpful to skip the hardest questions
and then go back to them later. 10. Mention the hazards of statements that say
"All of the above" or "None of the above." 11. For number problems, students
should always estimate their answers before working them out to determine if
their calculations are reasonable.
After the test... 1. Immediately after the test, encourage your students to
talk about their experience. Discussions may help them to vent any frustration
they feel about the testing process. 2. When students receive their test
results, don't discuss an individual's test scores in front of the entire class,
rather talk about the class's performance as a whole. You may want to discuss
these questions. Was the class's performance above or below the performance of
other students in the district? in the country? In what areas did the class do
best? In what areas did the class have difficulty? Were the class's results
consistent with day-to-day performance? 3. If you discuss test scores with
students, set up private conferences with them. Encourage them to interpret
their own performance. Do they think the scores accurately assessed their
abilities or knowledge? How do their scores compare with their classroom
performance? Were their scores higher or lower than they anticipated? 4. If you
do discuss test scores with individual students, be careful of the words you
use. Students may have a natural curiosity or anxiety about test results; they
could be easily misled by unguarded comments. 5. Remind students that they
shouldn't make major decisions about their futures based on the results of one
test. They need to consider their entire school history, their grade records,
and their activities and interests before they solidify their career goals.
WHERE CAN YOU GO FOR MORE INFORMATION?
highlights some important points about testing, but you may want to explore
these issues further. Here is a list of some helpful resources.
Anastasi, Anne. Psychological Testing. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co.,
Herndon, Enid B. Your Child and Testing. Washington, DC: National Institute
for Education, October 1980.
Illinois State Board of Education. Assessment Handbook: A Guide for Assessing
Illinois Students. 1988.
Lyman, Howard B. Test Scores and What They Mean. Englewood Cliffs, New
Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1986.
Michigan State Board of Education. Pencils Down! A Guide for Using and
Reporting Test Results. (2nd ed.), 1987.
National Education Association. Standardized Testing Issues: Teachers'
Perspectives. Washington, DC: NEA, 1977.
National School Public Relations Association. A parent's guide to
Standardized Aptitude and Achievement Testing. Arlington, Virginia: NSPRA, 1978.
Rudman, Herbert C. "Classroom Instruction and Tests: What Do We Really Know
About the Link?" NASSP Bulletin. February 1987, pp. 3-21.
Weinstein, Claire E. How to Help Your Children Achieve in School. Washington,
DC: National Institute of Education, March 1983. ED 233 814.