Standardized Tests: What Are They?


In one of our previous articles we talked about the purpose of testing. That it should never be done when the purpose for doing it is not clear. So standardised testing is done for entirely different purpose from others’. Standards are part of our daily lives! Public transport has standards seats – there are no small, medium, or big seats yet we are of different sizes. Preparing seswaa has a standard way of doing it. So what really is a standardized test?

A test is said to be standardized when it (1) requires all test takers to answer the same questions, or a selection of questions from common bank of questions, in the same way, and that (2) is scored in a “standard” or consistent manner, (3) which makes it possible to compare the relative performance of individual learners or groups of learners. Because it compares learners, a standardized test is often interpreted in a norm-referenced manner.

In most cases, standardized tests involve multiple choice questions, short-answer questions, true-false questions, essay questions, or a mix of question types. However, they may involve structured questions or essays. These require the use of a standardised criteria for scoring to promote fairness and objectivity of scoring.

Standardized tests may be used for a wide variety of educational purposes and it is important for educators to know when to use such. There are different types of standardised tests such as achievement tests, aptitude tests and diagnostics tests. Tests such as end of month, end of term, national examinations, national assessments, are examples of standardized tests.

An achievement test is a test set from material/content which was taught to the learners in school, e.g. a monthly test. It is designed to measure the learners’ knowledge and skills or to determine the academic progress they have made over a period of time. The tests may also be used to evaluate the effectiveness of schools and teachers.

An aptitude test is a test that attempts to determine and measure a person’s ability to acquire, through future training, some specific set of skills or a test that attempts to determine whether a person is trainable or not, before incurring unnecessary costs. Those who are old enough will remember the science aptitude tests that were written by form 5’s to select learners for enrolment in PESC Programme at the University of Botswana. Aptitude tests are “forward-looking” in that they typically attempt to forecast or predict how well students will do in a future educational or career setting

A diagnostic test is a test that determines how much learners know of a particular topic before subjecting them to instruction. It is administered formatively as a pre-test to determine learners’ strengths, weaknesses, knowledge, and skills and as a post-test test to determine how much they have gained after instruction. The teacher uses pre-test information to guide lesson planning and devising appropriate instructional strategies for learners. 

Join us in our next article, when we shall be talking about classroom testing and how it differs from standardised testing.

The Author holds PhD in ‘Assessment & Quality Assurance’ and writes in his personal capacity as a Psychometric Researcher. Contact/WhatsApp: 71713446 or or facebook page: Trust Mbako Masole


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