Types of Tests

There are two types of tests that are typically administered to students: standardized and standards based. For IT professionals who are designing systems to administer the tests, there is no difference; devices must be able to establish reliable and secure connections to the servers where the test is housed, user accounts must be created, and testing conditions managed. For the data specialists, there may be differences on the strategies for reporting results. 

Just so you don’t have to ask the difference once you get into a school, standardized and standards-based tests are differentiated by the comparisons contained in the results. An individual’s score on a standardized test is compared to all the others who took the test, so it is reported as a percentile. Scoring in the 50th percentile means half the students scored higher and half the students scored lower. Standards-based tests compare individual’s performance to what they were expected to learn. Results of these test are reported with some variation of “no evidence,” “almost meeting the standard,” “meets the standard,” and “exceeds the standard.” 

Neither type of test is inherently better than the other. Each has its own purpose, and neither gives a more accurate measure of what any individual really knows than the other.