Standardized tests are a fact of life, ranging from educational assessments in schools to the SAT to a driver’s license test to professional certifications. And as long as there are standardized tests, there will be test prep for one simple reason: it works. After all, these aren’t IQ or intelligence or aptitude tests, they’re simply tests of acquired skills. And skills can be acquired and refined through practice. Effective test preparation, therefore, provides many benefits beyond the content knowledge and test-taking strategies that manifestly lead to a higher test score.
What can be more important than any test score or certification are the less tangible lessons students learn about the value of planning, focused practice, and goal setting. Test preparation not only requires students to master content, but it also demands they craft and execute a plan to acquire that mastery. Doing so helps students more fully develop executive functions such as time management, organization, persistence, and – ultimately – metacognition. Test preparation forces students to think about their thinking, to learn how to better learn. Whether testers are destined for college or to work in our rapidly evolving knowledge economy, the ability to effectively manage one’s own learning is perhaps the only sustainable advantage one can have. Learning to work in an efficient and measurable way against a deadline is exactly the behavior one wishes to cultivate in young people heading to college or professionals embarking upon a new career.
As students prepare for standardized tests, they are engaging in a task that is difficult, a task in which they will have to confront their own challenges and work to overcome them. This demands patience, perseverance, and a belief that, through hard work, change is possible and we can be the agents of our own destiny. The process of preparing for standardized tests helps students to not only develop and hone academic skills, but it also facilitates the durable self-discipline and emotional resiliency that will serve students in meaningful ways long past Test Day and well beyond college. When a student embraces the challenge of testing and achieves an outcome that they are proud of, they come to see themselves in a new light. This reward is not limited to those who are receiving 90th+ percentile scores and is instead most pronounced for the students who previously harbored a belief that they were ‘bad testers’ or that they were passive actors in their own educational journey. Through smart, conscientious test prep, these students learn that hard work pays off, that a strategic commitment to growth will bear fruit, and that they themselves are capable.
Standardized tests are an opportunity for students of all ages to learn and practice skills that are essential to long-term academic and professional success. With great test prep, a student leverages their testing process to strengthen their academic foundation, to set and achieve smart goals, and to develop their own sense of agency and challenge their perceptions of the static nature of their abilities. No test result can (or should) define a student, but the independence, resilience, confidence, and discipline students develop in preparing for a test can help them to better define themselves and prepare them to rise to the challenges that lay ahead.