Intelligence tests and standardized tests face criticism for their uses and applications in society. In order to understand some of these controversies, one must first understand the various forms of intelligence and standardized tests.
Intelligence tests are created as a means of measuring intelligence. The various types of intelligence tests, as discussed in the previous section, are based upon the theoretical model of intelligence that each creator ascribes to. Factor analysis has found that to some extent, intelligence tests also measure "g" or general intelligence.
- The Stanford-Binet scale is a revision of the original Binet-Simon scale. Binet and Simon believed intelligence to be the ability to judge, reason, and and understand.
- The Wechsler tests offer three different intelligence tests based upon age: WPPSI (3-7 yrs.), WISC (6-16), and WAIS (16+). Wechsler also offers an acheivement test, the WIAT, which would fall into the category of standardized tests below. Wechsler's view of intelligence is the capacity to act purposefully, think rationally, and deal effectively in the environment.
Any test in which the same test is given in the same manner to all test-takers is known as a standardized test. Standardized tests are perceived as being more fair than non-standardized tests, and the consistency is thought to permit more reliable comparison of outcomes across all test takers. Standardized tests include the following:
- Achievement tests, which are designed to assess what students have learned in a specific content area or at a specific grade level.
- Diagnostic tests, which are used to profile skills and abilities, strengths and weaknesses.
- Aptitude tests, which, like achievement tests, measure what students have learned; however rather than focusing on specific subject matter learned in school, the test items focus on verbal, quantitative, problem solving abilities that are learned in school or in the general culture. According to test developers, both the ACT and SAT assess general educational development and reasoning, analysis and problem solving, as well as predicting success in college.
Standardized test scores are evaluated in two ways: criterion referenced and norm referenced. Criterion referenced standardized tests measure student performance against a specific standard or criterion. Norm referenced standardized tests measure students’ performance relative to the performance of others. Some recent standardized tests incorporate both criterion-referenced and norm referenced elements in to the same test.
Uses of Standardized Tests
Standardized tests are often used to select students for specific programs. For example, the SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test) and ACT (American College Test) are norm referenced tests used to help determine if high school students should be admitted to selective colleges. Norm referenced standardized tests are also used, among other criteria, to determine if students are eligible for special education or gifted and talented programs. Criterion referenced tests are often used to determine which students are eligible for promotion to the next grade or graduation from high school.
Controversies of Intelligence and Standardized Tests
Intelligence tests and standardized tests are widely used throughout different sectors because of their ability to assess and predict performance. The criticisms of intelligence and standardized tests usually lie in the uses and applications of these measures.
One criticism lies in the use of intelligence and standardized tests as predictive measures for social outcomes. Researchers have learned that IQ and general intelligence “g” are highly correlated with social outcomes, such as lower IQs being linked to incarceration or divorce and higher IQs being linked to job success and wealth. It is important to note that correlational studies only show a relationship between two factors, however, and give no indication about causation. Critics argue that intelligence cannot be used to predict such outcomes, and rather than these outcomes are influenced by a number of factors including genetics, environment, and culture.
The controversy surrounding using intelligence and standardized tests as predictive measures for social outcomes often has ethical implications at its core. Consider if employers decided to use intelligence tests as a screen for prospective employees in order to predict which individuals may be successful in a job. This misapplication of intelligence testing is considered unethical, as it provides a measure for discriminating against fully qualified individuals. Again, even if intelligence scores correlate with job success, this does not mean that those of a high intelligence will have job success.
Another criticism occurs when scores of standardized tests are misused as measures of intelligence. Researchers examined the correlation between the SAT and two different tests of intelligence and found a strong relationship between the results. They concluded that the SAT is primarily a test of “g” or general intelligence. As already mentioned, correlational studies provide information about a relationship, not about causation. Additionally, using a standardized test as a measure of intelligence is outside the scope of the tests' intended usage.
Critics of standardized tests also point to problems associated with using the SAT and ACT to predict college success. According to some research, the SAT and ACT tests have been found to be poor predictors of college success for several groups of students including females, African Americans, and Latinos, indicating that these tests cannot adequately account for gender and culture differences. Standardized tests don’t measure factors such as motivational issues or study skills which are also important for success in school. Predicting college success has found to be highest when a combination of factors are considered, rather than only a standardized test score.