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School Testing

Several different kinds of testing go on in most schools. This article introduces some of the different kinds of tests you may encounter in school settings, including classroom tests, district and state tests, national tests, and college admissions tests.

Classroom Tests

Teachers often use assessments to check students’ learning of material in various subjects periodically through the year. Among these assessments, tests may be used. It is not uncommon for children to have a spelling test every Friday on a list of words studied for the week, along with occasional math, reading, social studies, science, and foreign language tests. Even physical fitness classes may have tests.

When students reach secondary school, they often begin to have midterm and final exams. These are more significant tests in that they cover more material and often count as a large portion of a student’s semester grade.

District and State Tests

In addition to classroom testing for courses, schools may set aside days for district and state testing. District testing is testing required by the local school district. State testing is mandated by the Federal education law, No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

NCLB testing provides individual results for parents and schools, and consolidated results for districts and states. Students are tested in the following subjects:

  • Reading and Math in each grade 3-8 and once in 10-12
  • Science once each in grades 3-5, 6-9, and 10-12
  • English proficiency for limited English proficient students

The state’s own requirements may include other tests in subjects such as history, geography, and writing.

National Tests

As a provision of NCLB, states must administer the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in order to receive federal funding. The following NAEP tests are currently required:

  • Reading  and Math for 4th and 8th graders every 2 years

The use of this national test allows performance across states and can be used to compare to the state’s own assessments to see how similarly they assess students.


Accommodations for testing students with disabilities and Limited English Proficient students are a usual and customary part of test administration. The type of accommodation made depends on the situation and may include:

  • having the test read aloud
  • scribing the student’s answers
  • giving a longer amount of time
  • etc.

College Admission Testing

The first college related tests that students usually take is the PSAT/NMSQT, the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. It is geared to assess academic skills in reading, writing, and math; prepare students for the SAT, and give students an opportunity to receive information from colleges who offer the major they are most interested in. They are automatically entered into the National Merit Scholarship program.

The SAT and the ACT are part of the college admissions process at most schools.

The SAT, Scholastic Aptitude Test, is designed to report scores to colleges students wish to be considered at. The SAT Reasoning Test assesses students critical reading, math reasoning, and writing skills. The SAT Subject Tests let students show their knowledge of particular subject areas, such as languages, history, and science courses, as well as math and English literature.              

The ACT (American College Testing program) is another college admission test that covers four subjects -English, math, reading, and science. The ACT Plus Writing includes all those subjects and writing as well.

The Advanced Placement, or AP tests, are taken by students after a year of study of a specially designed college level course. Scoring well on the exam can earn the student college credit, depending on the policy of the college he or she attends. High AP scores can also be an impressive part of the college application for students who take some Advanced Placement courses in their junior year.

Written by Mary Elizabeth

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