Standardized tests are not the end-all of intelligence

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By Aliyah Binford | Reporter

Taking tests is actually very difficult for me. For those who completely understand what I’m saying — which I’m sure is many — then this piece is for you. Standardized tests get more difficult the older you get; whether it’s reading, writing or math, they continuously get harder. I can study for a test for days and understand the material, but when it comes time to take the test, my mind goes completely blank, and it’s as if I have short-term memory loss.

Between 40% and 60% of college students suffer from test anxiety, and I’m a part of that group. There is so much stress that goes into taking a test, and if I do poorly, then teachers interpret it as me not knowing the material or not being as smart as my peers. Think about it from the perspective of a student for a second. Your teacher tells you that you must take a test — one you might have even taken already earlier in the year — to measure your growth. How much you grow determines what classes you will be placed in next year and, whether the teacher says it or not, the opportunities you will have in the future. How would you feel if you were that student?

I could be the smartest person in the room, but because I scored low on a test, I am instantly dropped to a lower category, which makes absolutely no sense to me. I understand that we need consistent measures of progress for students in terms of math, reading, science and social studies. However, scoring low in these topics should not be the only resource that teachers and school facilities turn to before they tell me that I am slow or not smart. Many people are street smart, not book smart. I grew up learning street rules and how to be an adult in our dog-eat-dog world, so when I got to school here at Baylor, I struggled immensely, even in topics I understand well — all because schools feel the need to make things as difficult as possible for students, when at the end of the day, it makes me feel scared instead of giving me confidence for real life.

The problem is that standardized tests aren’t an accurate measure of the quality of a student’s education or even of a student’s intellect. To me, you can determine a person’s intelligence by giving them real-world problems and seeing how they get through them. You can be smart and still struggle with school. There are many famous people who did not make it through school and still did amazing in life, such as scientist, inventor and Founding Father Benjamin Franklin, who dropped out as a 10-year-old to help his family. So, why do schools push kids to take tests, judge them for not doing well and assume they are not smart? I believe everyone is smart in their own way, and schools should not put people in lower categories based on these sorts of results.

Test anxiety is a real thing. Standardized tests are not important enough to decide whether you will struggle in life. How you will succeed in life is up to you, and I believe I will succeed with ease, even if I struggle with tests that, to me, are pointless.