What are standardised tests?

Standardised tests require all test takers to answer the same questions in the same way, and are scored in a consistent manner, which makes it possible to compare the relative performance of pupils or groups of pupils.

Many assessment experts consider standardised tests to be a fair and objective method of assessing pupils, because the standardised format reduces the potential for favouritism, bias, or subjective evaluations.

"Standardised tests measure performance relative to all other pupils taking the same test."

Standardised tests are used for a number of educational purposes, for example, they may be used to determine what a child knows and can do on entry into school or to identify pupils who need special education support. At GL Assessment, we offer two kinds of standardised test:

  • Abilities test, such as the Cognitive Abilities Test (CAT4), are designed to predict a pupil’s ability to succeed in an academic endeavour by evaluating verbal, non-verbal, quantitative and spatial ability. Abilities tests are ‘forward looking’ in that they predict how well pupils will do in the future based on their abilities which support academic progress, such as types of reasoning. General cognitive ability is the single strongest predictor of how well a child will do in their GCSEs.
  • Attainment test such as the Progress Test Series, are designed to measure the knowledge and skills from key areas of the curriculum pupils have learned in school, or to determine the progress they have made over a period of time. The tests may also be used to evaluate the effectiveness of a school and teachers, which is the case with Key Stage 2 national tests and GCSEs. Attainment tests are ‘backward looking’ in that they measure how well pupils have learned what they were expected to learn.
"Abilities tests are designed to indicate a pupil’s propensity to succeed at school, while attainment tests measure the curriculum knowledge and skills acquired."