Standardized Testing in China: What It Says about American College Prep

Standardized Testing in China: What It Says about American College Prep
Barry Lenson

Standardized Testing in China: What It Says about American College Prep

Test PrepIf you think that American students have it bad when it comes to standardized testing, you should read “What I Learned from China’s Schools,” a recent blog post by Michael Levy, who taught high school in China. There he learned about China’s gaokao exam, a two- day government-administered standardized test that he calls, “an SAT on steroids.”

According to Levy, the gaokao causes a lot more harm to students than American standardized tests do. Here are some of the rather astonishing observations he makes about the test:

  • College admission in China is based solely on the results of the test.
  • Motivated students with money spend 8-10 hours a day preparing for the test – for four years.
  • High school curricula in China are devoted entirely to preparing students to do well on the test. It has completely dominated all other learning activities.
  • The test favors the rich, who can pay for preparation classes. Very rich Chinese opt out of the test entirely, by sending their children abroad to college.
  • The American government is making a big mistake by using standardized tests to determine how much funding schools should receive. The danger, Levy writes, is that America will end up with one all-powerful test that resembles the gaukao.

Fortunately, many American universities have already begun to loosen their dependence on standardized tests, by making them optional for applicants. And we are willing to predict that in the years to come, more schools will follow their lead.

Overall, the greater freedom of American higher education seems to create a better climate for students, who can exercise alternative learning options, including taking classes online.

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One thought on “Standardized Testing in China: What It Says about American College Prep”

  • Bob Frakes

    I read once that the scores for "China" actually were for Shanghai only, which itself is a "magnet school".

    Is this true or not?