We don’t. There I said it. We do not need standardized tests at any level, but particularly at the post-secondary level where we have such tests as the GRE, the CCTST, and major field tests.
Let me share a personal anecdote. When I was taking the exit exam for history, I was faced with this question “Of these people, who would John D. Rockefeller most likely not invite to dinner?”
There was a correct answer of course, but all of the historical training in me screamed that I could make a case for each of the options listed.
The question was designed so that you use your presumable knowledge of John D. Rockefeller to determine who he would not like based on your presumable knowledge about that person.
History does not work that way. History is not based on presumptions, it is based on textual evidence that can demonstrate your point.
On this exam, we were given none of that.
We were asked to regurgitate dates, names, and leaders relevant to specific questions.
I know professional historians that cannot give you some of the specific dates that the test asked for.
That brings me to one of the biggest problems that I have with this type of test: The level of specific knowledge that it presumes and expects you to have.
Let’s face it, we no longer have to hold vast amounts of knowledge in our heads or have to be forced to do hours of research in order to find an answer to our question.
We live in a connected world where a question or inquiry can be answered in a few keystrokes. So why do I need to remember the date of the Boston Massacre, when Google can tell me in a few moments?
The real skills that people need to succeed cannot be accurately measured on a test.
Skills like analysis, reasoning, and logic are best when they are demonstrated in the real world on real situations that you will be working with.
Not when they are presented as abstract hypotheticals that you have no connection to, other than wanting to receive a good grade on your test.