Are standardized tests too difficult?

It is not that these tests are ridiculously difficult; it's that they are simply ridiculous. They don't have the ability to capture what it means to be a well-educated person. As the president of the National Academy of Sciences has remarked, questions that focus on "excruciatingly boring material" not only fail to judge students' capacity to reason but wind up driving away potential future scientists."

The following is an example of a high school standardized test question that students commonly get wrong:

n 12 3 4 5 6 tn 3 5

The first two terms of a sequence, t, and t2, are shown above as 3 and 5.

Using the rule:

tn = tn_2 + tn-2, where n is greater than or equal to 3, complete the table.

This question was found under the math section of the test but it does not actually test a students math skills, it tests the students ability to follow a set of instructions. This is really asking the test taker to add 3 and 5 to get 8, then add 5 and 8 to get 13, then add 8 to 13 to get 21, etc. In addition to the wording of the question being unclear and difficult to follow, many students will get questions like these wrong because they haven't been exposed to this type of notation or question. Questions such as this one demonstrate that students have memorized a procedure, not that they fully understand what they are doing.

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