It seems that tests are almost universally hated – or at least dreaded. Students groan when a parent or teacher announces an upcoming test. A teenager may have problems sleeping as he studies and practices for his driver’s license test. A law student obsesses over passing her bar exam.
On the other hand, tests are critical to success. If my car is sputtering, I expect the mechanic to run some tests on it before replacing the engine. If I experience chest pains or have problems reading road signs, I know that I will have to take some tests to determine whether my heart is acting up or what kind of glasses I need. Similarly, I need to know if my algebra student is grasping the concept of solving equations, and the best way to do that is to test her, either formally on a written test, or informally as I watch her do a problem.
Since only God is all knowing, we mortals will never escape the need for tests, for testing in its most basic form is simply asking questions in order to know.
We may want to find out information for ourselves, or we may want to see how well someone else has processed information. As parents and teachers, we cannot know how well our students are doing unless we test them. The curriculum we use probably has ready-made tests designed to be used at various intervals in the course. We may design our own tests, depending on how comfortable we are with teaching. We may quiz our students verbally throughout the day. And then of course there are achievement tests, required in some states and not in others.
In this group of articles, we will look at tests in general, not just achievement tests. There is a lot of information on the web and in print, but it may be difficult to find, misleading, or loaded with eight-cylinder terminology. We want to keep these articles informative and understandable, and will try to explain terms as we go along.