So what is a standardized test, really? Usually when we think of the word “standardization,” we think of the limitations of a test to truly tell us about an individual. How can a test measure someone’s character, creativity, integrity, or intelligence? Surely open ended questions would provide much more insight into what a person knows about any given subject. Why can’t the ACT do that?
Let’s pause for a minute and take a look at the company that writes the ACT. ACT, Inc. is a nonprofit organization whose sole purpose is to create a test useful to college admission’s offices around the country. Its biggest competitor is the SAT.
In order to provide this black and white assessment to colleges, the ACT must leave no room for subjective answers. Every answer is either 100% correct or it is wrong. Learning to identify wrong answer choices is a crucial part of understanding the ACT.
Every official ACT test administered on any given Saturday must be the same as any other given test on any other given Saturday. Each test must cover the same material, test the same concepts in the same ways, and present the same wrong answer choices in the same wrong answer ways. Otherwise, the test would not be standardized. The ACT’s sole existence depends on making tests that are fair, equal, and THE SAME.
As a student, this is good news! Standardization is limited when it comes to creating a test that will represent the student as a whole. However, standardization works in the student’s favor when he/she begins to understand and dissect the test. As students, parents, and educators we have an amazing opportunity to shine. Let’s take it.