Standardized Tests are Necessary for Learning – True or False? A Look Into the Recent AP Testing Situation

The month of May issued thousands of students across America to begin their AP testing. While tests are stressful enough, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it necessary for students to take these tests at home – and in only 45 minutes.

Outrage over failed submissions and website problems has prompted the media to focus on the CollegeBoard and the real purpose and necessity of standardized testing. Is a test really enough to test a student’s true knowledge of a subject? Here, we will analyze the history of standardized testing, delve into the recent AP test situation, and consider the pros and cons of standardized tests.

History of Standardized Testing

The earliest records of standardized testing came from China, where students were tested on their knowledge of Confucian philosophy. After the Industrial Revolution, kids were put into schools, and testing was an easy way to test a large group at once.

By the 1900s, standardized testing was the norm. Aptitude tests were given during World War I to assign people to certain jobs. 

The SAT was created in 1926, founded by the CollegeBoard as the Scholastic Aptitude Test. According to TIME, “the original test lasted 90 minutes and consisted of 315 questions testing knowledge of vocabulary and basic math.” After the end of World War II, the test was accepted by most universities and was considered important for high school students wanting to gain a higher education.

In 1959, the ACT was made to compete with the SAT in that it also included a science portion and held a different grading scale. 

Modern testing began when U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson passed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, which promoted tests to make education fairer. 

Today, the SAT and ACT are just two tests that add on to the average American high schooler’s stress. These tests are necessary for admission into most colleges and universities and are usually taken during a student’s junior year of high school. These tests are somewhat of an obsession among high school students, and many can pay for SAT or ACT study classes which promise to raise scores.

Recent AP Testing

Do to the COVID-19 pandemic, AP tests this year have been completed through 45-minute online exams that can be taken from home. The new online format, while necessary at this time, produced many problems for the three million students who took AP tests.

The CollegeBoard, which owns AP tests, announced that around 1 percent of students experienced difficulties when submitting their tests. However, even if only 1 percent of students were affected, this still leaves “at least 20,000 students” who were unable to submit their work. Students who tested during the first week of AP testing and didn’t get to submit their work are now waiting to retake their tests at a later date.

After the first week of testing, CollegeBoard created a back-up email submission that allows students who weren’t able to submit their work send their submissions through email. This way, they won’t have to wait to retake their test at a later date. This back-up email option, however, was not made available for students who tested during the first week of AP tests, leaving them to settle for test retake days.

The parents of a few students who encountered difficulties when submitting their work have filed a lawsuit against the CollegeBoard, stating that “the organization is guilty of breach of contract, gross negligence, and violating the Americans With Disabilities Act.” The online format and rigid restrictions ignore students who make have limited Internet access or technology, and especially ignores international students who are forced to wake up in the early hours of the morning to take their exams.

Purpose of Standardized Testing

The recent AP testing situation has created a large debate on standardized tests and the impact they have on students. In this day and age, tests are necessary for students pursuing higher education. But does an SAT score truly reflect a student and their ability to succeed? Can we really measure a student’s knowledge based on a 45-minute test?

Granted, standardized tests are a good way of comparing school data and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of a school’s method of teaching. They allow teachers and schools to figure out where to improve and where funding should go for certain programs or classes. For instance, if a school shows lower test scores in science, the district could use this info to strengthen its science board with better equipment or more teachers.

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on

On the other hand, standardized tests seriously affect students’ confidence. The testing system is a major source of stress for most high school students and receiving a low score can be detrimental to their mental wellbeing. Many students may feel pressured by their family to perform well on tests, making them feel like their worth is only in a high test score. Tests also fail to truly represent a student’s abilities or knowledge. Some suffer from anxiety and are unable to focus during tests. Additionally, tests teach students to only study the “correct” information, ie only the information that should be studied for the tests. Testing cuts off students’ curiosity and overall learning of certain subjects.

Standardized tests are a prevalent issue that affects people of all ages. There is no doubt that changes need to be made to the overall testing system to accommodate for students’ mental health and overall wellbeing. However, testing has become so woven in our society that there’s no real way to completely erase them from our daily lives.

Works Cited:

Hoover, Eric. “Glitches Complicated This Year’s Advanced Placement Exams. Now Some Students Are Suing.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 20 May 2020, Accessed 31 May 2020.

Nixon, Bryan. “The Pros and Cons of Standardized Testing.” Whitbyschool.Org, 2020, Accessed 31 May 2020.

“Breaking News, Analysis, Politics, Blogs, News Photos, Video, Tech Reviews – TIME.Com.” TIME.Com, 11 Dec. 2009,,8599,1947019,00.html. Accessed 31 May 2020.

“History of Standardized Tests – ProCon.Org.” Standardized Tests, 15 Apr. 2020, Accessed 31 May 2020.

Ebrahimji, Alisha. “How US Schools Are Responding to the Coronavirus Pandemic.” CNN, 15 May 2020, Accessed 31 May 2020.

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