27 Apr 2022


The Unfairness of Standardized Tests

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Academic level: College

Paper type: Essay (Any Type)

Words: 651

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For admission, most institutions of higher learning require students to demonstrate academic excellence. Scores from standardized tests are one of the tools that these institutions use (Kay, 2017). Students with high scores stand higher chances of admission while those whose scores are not high are forced to settle for low-caliber institutions. The use of standardized tests to determine admission has been a controversial issue in the United States. There is one camp that argues that these tests provide institutions with a reliable tool for assessing applicants. The other camp holds that these tests are unfair as they do not offer an accurate representation of a student’s competence (Kay, 2017). This paper defends the position that standardized tests are unfair and should therefore be done away with. 

One of the factors that make such standardized tests as SAT unfair is the fact that they are not reliable for measuring intelligence or knowledge (Kelleghan, Madaus & Airasian, 2012) . Studies have shown that scores in these tests do not offer a comprehensive representation of a student’s performance. There are students who have consistently performed well but are unable to pass the standardized tests. The case of these students highlights the fact that schools should stop relying on these tests for admission since they are unreliable and unfair. Instead, they should adopt more comprehensive assessments. 

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The standardized tests are usually in English. This means that students who are not native speakers of English are disadvantaged (Haynes, 2012). This is unfair because the education system needs to offer opportunities to all students, regardless of their mastery of the English language. Non-native speakers of English are not the only group that is disadvantaged. Students with special needs also suffer a disadvantage (Haynes, 2012). This is because the standardized tests do not make any provisions to accommodate the needs of these students. Essentially, these tests force students who are not native speakers and those with special needs to compete with native speakers of English and able-bodied students. This is the very definition of unfairness. The US clearly needs to change how it assesses the performance of its students. 

One of the integral components of fairness in education is providing students with meaningful learning. Teachers strive to ensure that students are prepared for the challenges of college and life in general. Standardized tests erode the efforts of these teachers. These tests have forced teachers to abandon their efforts to offer meaningful education. Instead, teachers are now pushing students to memorize knowledge that they then reproduce when taking the standardized tests (Proctor, Brownlee & Freebody, 2014). This method of teaching is unfair since it releases students into the world without preparing them for the challenges that the encounter. 

The characteristic feature of standardized tests is that all the takers of these tests answer standard questions and a standard method of grading is applied. This system seems fair. However, when one considers the fact that the US is made up of different communities with different needs and realities, the unfairness of this system becomes clear. It has been shown that standardized tests disadvantages students from racial and ethnic minorities (Mooney, Knox & Schacht, 2014). For instance, students from the black community have historically performed poorly in standardized tests. The poor performance can be blamed on the failure by successive governments to invest in the education of students from the black community and other minorities. Essentially, the standardized tests punish minority students for situations that they did not create. This is unfair and more needs to be done to shield these students from harm.

In conclusion, standardized tests are still in use today. They are used by institutions to gauge the suitability of a student for admission. The continued use of these tests is despite the fact that the tests have been shown to be unfair. These tests reward the ability to cram information at the expense of meaningful learning. The tests also place non-native English speakers and students with special needs at a disadvantage. Ethnic and racial minorities also suffer. The standardized tests are clearly unfair and the US needs to develop a more reliable system for evaluating student performance. 


Haynes, J. A. (2012). Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Children. Bloomington, IN: Xlibris. 

Kay, M. (2017). Urge Reform of Unfair Standardized Tests in College Admission Process. Retrieved 24th March 2017 from http://www.thejustice.org/article/2016/04/urge-reform-of-unfair-standardized-tests-in-college-admission-process  

Kelleghan, T., Madaus, G. F., & Airasian, P. W. (2012). The Effects of Standardized Testing. New York: Springer. 

Mooney, L. A., Knox, D., & Schacht, C. (2014). Understanding Social Problems. Boston: Cengage. 

Proctor, H., Brownlee, P., & Freebody, P. (2014). Controversies in Education: Orthodoxy and Heresy in Policy and Practice. New York: Springer. 

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StudyBounty. (2023, September 15). The Unfairness of Standardized Tests.


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