Standardized tests—meaning tests where all students respond to the same set of questions—have been a part of life in American schools since the turn of the 20th century. First used to assess college students and military recruits, the concept soon spread to elementary and secondary (middle and high school) education.
Flash forward to today, where federal law requires states to test students in grades 3-8 in reading and math. High school students are required to be tested once in each subject. Students must also take a test in science at least once in grade school, middle school, and high school.
Most states choose to also test students in other areas such as writing skills. Standardized tests vary from state to state, which is one reason that the practice is commonly referred to as state testing. In some states, the tests are linked to meeting Common Core Standards (CCSS).
Students complete the same set of test questions (multiple choice, short written, or essay) that are scored in the same way. Individually and as a cohort, student performance at each grade level is evaluated.
The results are used to help guide local improvements in how students are taught and to help determine learning supports for students who need them. State tests can also identify gifted students who are ready for advanced coursework.