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What are the advantages and disadvantages of achievement tests?

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Quick Answer

The advantages of achievement tests include providing a snapshot of student performance, serving as a tool to determine needed educational resources and providing a convenient method to measure progress. Disadvantages often include the negative pressures put on schools, potential error in measuring skills and an issue of fairness when testing diverse students.

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Full Answer

When used correctly, achievement tests can provide an accurate overview of how students are learning and performing in a variety of subjects. In this way, they are a tool to enhance curriculum and pedagogical practices and to allocate resources and funding where needed. They are easy to use through computers and handwritten testing booklets, and results are efficiently compiled.

However, disadvantages often occur when standardized achievement tests are used to penalize a school or particular discipline. For example, some districts experience negative pressure and the potential loss of funding from state legislatures when scores are not optimal. Many school administrators also cite the potential error in measuring student skills through an achievement test as a disadvantage, since many students do not test well, and a test once a year does not adequately display accurate results. In addition, a diverse student population where poverty and economic challenges impact a student's ability to prepare for an achievement test may also negatively sway the results.

Since achievement tests are standardized, all students are asked to answer the same questions under similar test-taking circumstances. This increases the objectivity of the test, and it can aid politicians and policy makers in determining what is working in student education and what needs to change.

Non-native English speakers may have a hard time scoring well due to problems in understanding the questions rather than failing to have the relevant abilities and knowledge. Because students are often required to take these achievement tests prior to mastering the language, the exam may not be able to accurately measure their abilities. Similar challenges impact students with learning disabilities and special educational needs.

Additionally, in order to improve student scores, many teachers dedicate extensive amounts of classroom time to preparing for the exam. Unfortunately, learning exam material is not necessarily beneficial for the overall education of the students. In some states, the teachers' salaries and even job prospects can be heavily influenced by their students' exam scores.

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