Qualities of Standardized Tests: When and How to Use Them Effectively

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Qualities and Standards

Unlike teacher-made tests that are regularly administered to students often on a weekly basis, standardized tests are scheduled in advance. But the schedule is not the primary reason why such tests are described as standardized. Such tests meet the technical qualities established by the American Psychological Association (APA). That is, the APA investigates four aspects of a test to determine if it meets the criteria for validity and reliability and if it can establish comparable norms. These four aspects are:

  • Test Construction and Evaluation – The test should be constructed in a way that eliminates the influence of guessing as well as misunderstandings of the item’s question. This is where a well-structured format is crucial in test construction. At the same time, the items should be based on observation and experience rather than theory.
  • Test Use – The method of utilizing the test should meet professional and ethical considerations. For example, some tests are inappropriate for children who are younger than two years old and some tests cannot be used for students who are suffering from particular disabilities.
  • Particular Applications - The use of scores obtained from the standardized test should be clearly specified. One standardized test that measure intelligence and achievement should not be used to measure social skills.
  • Administrative Procedures – Each standardized test should have a systematic procedure in administration, scoring, and interpretation.


Based on the above, the criteria to be met are the following:

  • Validity – This refers to the appropriateness and meaningfulness of the test. The test should measure what it is supposed to measure. Simplistically, if a test is given to measure a learner’s ability to use the four fundamental operations, the test should consist of items that ask the students to add, subtract, multiply, and divide. If the test items are problems that require analysis and reasoning before using the said mathematical operations, then the test is not valid. A learner who is proficient in the operations but has weak problem solving skills will have a low score. That low score should not be interpreted as the inability to compute.
  • Reliability – This refers to the consistency of the scores that can be obtained from the test. For example, the score obtained by a student from a particular test should be roughly the same as the score that the same student will get when he/she takes the test again. Factors that are not related to the test, such as emotional state and environment, should not significantly change the score.
  • Norms – This refers to the comparison of a student’s score in a test to the scores of a reference group of students. A norm that can be followed with confidence results in a good comparison. On the other hand, if the norms of a verbal ability test were based on a reference group composed of native English speakers and if the examinee’s English is his second language, his score could not be compared to the norms established by the test.

When Standardized Tests Are Not Enough

Standardized tests should not be the sole instruments in assessing the academic progress of a student. This is because standardized tests were not created to suit or meet the unique needs of a particular classroom setting.

In a school without a trained or qualified psychologist, the results from standardized tests can be misinterpreted or simply over-generalized. Thus, it is important to seek the services of professionals who are trained to interpret scores. And finally, it is easy to overlook certain factors, such as physical state and economic background, that could affect the score of a student in a standardized test.

When Standardized Tests Are Important

If used wisely, standardized tests can be extremely beneficial. For example, standardized tests that measure intelligence can reveal the high mental potential of a student despite low academic achievement. This is because standardized tests are usually free from bias and not influenced by the examinee’s immediate environment.

This post is part of the series: Assessment Tests

This is a series of articles about assessment tests

  1. Standardized Tests as a Quality Benchmark for Student Appraisal
  2. Assessment Instruments Commonly Used in Special Education
  3. Assessing Motor Skills in Early Childhood - Using the PDMS
  4. Using the Kaufman Assessment Battery 2nd Edition for Children
  5. The Validity of the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale
  6. The Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale and Special Needs Students
  7. Using the Child Behavior Checklist