Today took me back to my elementary school years spent at a public school. While I loved my school, I did not enjoy all of the standardize testing that I had to do while there. Today was one of the 2 nation wide days for 9-11th graders to take the PSAT. Yay! (Said as sarcastically as you can imagine.)
It is pretty impressive how much the PSAT was talked about on social media today. Which is funny since there is this whole little blurb you write in cursive (yup, remember cursive; that thing you use for signatures and standardized test) about not discussing the content on the test. This was actually one of the more discussed things too.
Washington Post even did an article about the PSAT today with students thoughts before and after based on the social media.
The thing is, I don’t believe standardized test like the PSAT really measure intelligence or understanding of material very well. First off, most of it (except for maybe 10 questions on one math section) are multiple choice, so you could guess and check if you really wanted to. And what does that prove; that you are a good guesser?
Second, the time limit is a pain.
Most of the material, specifically for math, is stuff you learned years ago (depending on your current course), and the material isn’t even reviewed before taking the test. There were only a few that I skipped, but it wasn’t because I couldn’t have found the answer, it was because I couldn’t remember how to do it quickly. I believe that being able to find an accurate solution to a complex problem that you haven’t been specifically been taught how to do, is more impressive then being able to quickly solve a simple algebra equation. However, in order to do this, you need the time to mess around with what you know to figure out what you don’t know. If it was really about the learning, then you could even take what you learned by solving it to try and find a faster way to use for later. To do that, a student would need to have a much deeper level of understanding on information.
The time also makes you antsy. I hate sitting still in a chair in the same classroom for 3 hours. Sure, we get one 5 minute break to stretch, but what do we all think about? We think about how weird the questions are, the other work we will have to do during the day, how much we want to go to sleep, how much longer we have to look at a scantron…
The next point I don’t know weather to think of as a good or bad thing, but more of having aspects of both. The pieces of reading are actually intriguing sometimes despite how standard the multiple choice questions about them can be: “What was the best meaning of the word “standard” in sentence 2? What was the purpose of the second paragraph? How does this authors perspective compare to the perspective of author 2?” I wish we could actually analyze some of these writings though, rather than answering multiple choice stuff about the surface level information. I get fascinated by short stories because they often have a very clear and controversial perspective that is fun to debate about; however, I find that as you get older, you examine less short stories. It stinks. I don’t even care how ridiculous the topics are, I love a good random debate! These stories would have provoked such interesting conversations in class as evident from all of the social media buzz.
It’s actually kind of funny how students across the country are cracking up at post like these, but many adults don’t get it because they didn’t take the test and don’t realize how this is really the information we were taught today; if it makes you feel a little stupid and confused inside, then you are reading it 100% correctly! I feel bad for the 11th graders out there who have to take this test seriously because of the National Merits Society because overall it doesn’t prove much. It was just a beautiful time waster that shows how well you can sit still for 3 hours while being asked to recall old, once memorized facts. However, it could spark some fascinating conversations if presented in a different light.