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Standardized admissions tests

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By Margaret Adolphus

Undergraduate admissions tests

A standardized test is one where all the elements – administration, questions, scores – are absolutely consistent, so that whether the student sits the tests in Beijing or Chicago the rules are exactly the same, the questions are open to just one interpretation, and are scored in the same manner.

The earliest use of standardized tests is in the Han dynasty, according to Wikipedia, for admission to the Chinese Civil Service; perhaps the best known, at least with actual and would-be business students, is the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT). This article looks principally at that test and the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) – the two main tests for potential graduate students in English-speaking universities, and also examines briefly undergraduate tests, and English language tests.

Probably the best-known of these is the SAT, which is used in the USA as a key means of deciding whether or not to admit someone into higher education. The reason for its adoption is that because the US is federal, each state has its own education system, so it can be difficult for colleges to compare students. There are two versions of SAT:

  1. SAT 1 which tests verbal and mathematical reasoning skills.
  2. SAT 2 which is subject-based.

For more information on SAT, visit the website of the College Board (which sponsors the testing programme and decides how it will be constructed, administered and used) or the ETS website (which administers the tests).