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Cambodian students taking an exam in order to apply for the Don Bosco Technical School of Sihanoukville in 2008. A standardized test is any test that is administered and scored in a consistent manner to ensure legal defensibility. A non-standardized test is usually flexible in scope and format, variable in difficulty and significance. Since these tests are usually developed by individual instructors, the format and difficulty of these tests may not be widely adopted or used by other instructors or institutions.
A non-standardized test may be used to determine the proficiency level of students, to motivate students to study, and to provide feedback to students. In contrasts to non-standardized tests, standardized tests are widely used, fixed in terms of scope, difficulty and format, and are usually significant in consequences. Standardized tests are usually held on fixed dates as determined by the test developer, educational institution, or governing body, which may or may not be administered by the instructor, held within the classroom, or constrained by the classroom period. Any test with important consequences for the individual test taker is referred to as a high-stakes test. A test may be developed and administered by an instructor, a clinician, a governing body, or a test provider. In some instances, the developer of the test may not be directly responsible for its administration.
Ancient China was the first country in the world that implemented a nationwide standardized test, which was called the imperial examination. The main purpose of this examination was to select able candidates for specific governmental positions. From the mid 19th century, universities began to institute written examinations to assess the aptitude of the pupils. This is an excerpt from the 1842 Tripos examination in Cambridge University. As the profession transitioned to the modern mass-education system, the style of examination became fixed, with the stress on standardized papers to be sat by large numbers of students.
Leading the way in this regard was the burgeoning Civil Service that began to move toward a meritocratic basis for selection in the mid 19th century in England. British civil service was influenced by the imperial examinations system and meritocratic system of China. Trevelyan model of meritocratic examination remained essentially stable for a hundred years. It also had a great international influence and was adapted by members of the Commonwealth. Written examinations had been unheard of before 1702 for European education. The Chinese examinations were described repeatedly in Western literature on China of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Both World War I and World War II demonstrated the necessity of standardized testing and the benefits associated with these tests.
Tests were used to determine the mental aptitude of recruits to the military. After the War, industry began using tests to evaluate applicants for various jobs based on performance. Baccalauréat respectively as a requirement for graduation. Grades or test scores from standardized test may also be used by universities to determine if a student applicant should be admitted into one of its academic or professional programs. Standardized tests are sometimes used by certain countries to manage the quality of their educational institutions.
For example, the No Child Left Behind Act in the United States requires individual states to develop assessments for students in certain grades. In practice, these assessments typically appear in the form of standardized tests. Finally, standardized tests are sometimes used to compare proficiencies of students from different institutions or countries. Standardized tests are sometimes used by certain governing bodies to determine if a test taker is allowed to practice a profession, to use a specific job title, or to claim competency in a specific set of skills.