How Standardized Tests Are Used with Infants and Young Children
Types of Standardized Tests
Many types of standardized tests are available for use with infants and young children. All are psychological tests, whether they measure abilities, achievements, aptitudes, interests, attitudes, values, or personality characteristics. In this article, we will discuss each of these types of tests.
Ability refers to the current level of knowledge or skill in a particular area. Three types of psychological testsintelligence tests, achievement tests, and aptitude testsare categorized as ability tests because they measure facets of ability. Young children are often measured to determine the progress of their development. A measure used with such children may assess ability in motor, language, social, or cognitive skills. McCarthy’s Scales of Children’s Abilities (McCarthy, 1983), for example, has indexes for verbal, perceptual–performance, quantitative, cognitive, memory, and motor abilities.
Achievement is related to the extent to which a person has acquired certain information or has mastered identified skills. An achievement test measures ability in that it evaluates the child’s achievement related to specific prior instruction. The Peabody Individual Achievement TestRevised (American Guidance Service, 1997) is a measure of achievement in mathematics, reading recognition, reading comprehension, spelling, and general information.
Aptitude is the potential to learn or develop proficiency in some area, provided that certain conditions exist or training is available. An individual may have a high aptitude for music or art. Like achievement tests, aptitude tests also measure learned abilities. An aptitude test measures the results of both general and incidental learning and predicts future learning.
Intelligence tests are ability tests in that they assess overall intellectual functioning. They are also aptitude tests because they assess aptitude for learning and problem solving. The Stanford–Binet Intelligence Scale (Thorndike, Hagen, & Sattler, 1986) is an example of an intelligence scale that also measures individual aptitude.
Personality tests measure a person’s tendency to behave in a particular way. Such tests are used to diagnose children’s emotional problems. Because an inventory is used to assess personality characteristics, the test is quite lengthy, usually containing several hundred items in a true–false format. Test items are answered by the parent or child or by both together and are analyzed to determine whether the child has certain personality traits.
Interest inventories are used to determine a person’s interest in a certain area or vocation and are not used with very young children. A school-age child may be given a reading interest inventory to provide the teacher with information that will serve as a guide when helping the child select reading material.
Attitudes are also measured in older children and adults, rather than in young children. An attitude measure determines how a person is predisposed to think about or behave toward an object, event, institution, type of behavior, or person or group of people. Politicians frequently use such measures to determine the attitudes of voters on controversial issues.
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