PBS Kids GO! It's My Life
Test Stress: Types of Tests

All tests are not created equal. Here are some of the basic types of tests we face during our time in school:

Tests of knowledge. Most exams test you on your knowledge, meaning specific information you learn in class. For example:

  • A math test might ask you to do long division problems.
  • A history test might ask you the reasons the American Civil War was fought.
  • An English test might ask you to show the proper use of quotation marks.

Tests of aptitude. "Aptitude" is another name for "ability." Instead of covering knowledge that you've been taught in school, aptitude tests aim to measure how well you learn or understand things. For instance, an aptitude test might show that you're a natural math whiz and should be placed in an advanced class. On the other hand, an aptitude test could let a teacher know if a student needs extra help in a certain area.

An aptitude test might:

  • Ask you to solve problems that rely on your basic understanding of numbers and math.
  • Ask you to read a short paragraph and then answer questions about what you've read.
  • Ask you questions that test your reasoning or ability to understand words and ideas.

Classroom tests. These are "regular" tests that are usually written by your teacher or the school staff. They cover only material that you've been taught in class, and are used to help determine your grade for the class.

Standardized tests. "Standardized" means that all students are tested on the same knowledge -- everyone must know the same basic things. These tests are usually identical for all students in a school district, county, state, or even the whole country. Government officials decide that there are certain facts or skills that every single student should know, and write a test that covers this material. For example, your state might feel that every student your age must know that World War II ended in 1945, or that the radius of a circle is equal to half the diameter. Because of this, these questions will probably appear on a standardized test, and your teacher will probably make sure to cover these things so you're prepared. Here's what else you might want to know:

  • Standardized tests are usually given to all students in the state on the same hour of the same day, and most of them are multiple choice (choose answer A, B, C, etc.) and scored by computer scan (you fill in bubbles with a number 2 pencil).

  • Sometimes standardized tests affect your grade in a class, and sometimes they don't.

  • These types of tests are often given to students before they graduate to another year of school, as in a "standardized final exam."

  • Standardized tests are often written and graded by a state "board of regents" or "board of examinations." This means that your teacher will not be writing or grading the test questions.

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