The Changing World of Aptitude Exams and Study Guides

Dr. Purushothaman
September 27, 2013

For years, when students heard the words “aptitude exam”, there were two tests that immediately came to mind: The SAT and the ACT. However, as the years go by and the test themselves do not change, more new exams are coming into prominence. Nowadays, students might take a whole series of different exams for different schools, meaning they must study for multiple exams, usually also meaning they must take advantage of multiple resources such as study guides and flashcards. Most of them are generally similar in content, but, each institution or entity has their own test. Test makers, government agencies, students, educators, and test-makers alike are talking about changes though.

One big change in recent history is the number of tests being offered as a computerized exam. In many cases, the old paper & pencil versions are not even an option anymore. The theory is that as our culture and society moves further into a digital age, technology for testing should move with it. It is a first step, which some consider inconsequential, to take a test on a computer. The questions are the same. But, a time is coming when test-makers are considering creating an additional section of testing knowledge, specifically geared towards computer knowledge. As many of these exams are specifically for higher education or careers that require technological know-how, there is an aspect for potential candidates that is not adequately tested. The remaining question is “how?”. What will be fair game on a new “technology” or “computer knowledge” test section? How to use Microsoft Word? Code a simple program? Rebuild an entire computer? Some guess that multiple versions will be offered, depending on the necessary requirements for the position or school being considered. When it comes time to study for this material, will it be something a student can learn from a study guide though? This is one of many questions test-makers must answer.

The most recent example of new tests is the state of New York deciding to do away with the GED all together. This was a surprising revelation to most, as the GED is such a common household name that many do not even realize that the GED is actually a trademarked name much like “Kleenex”. So, what gives? If every other state offers and accepts the GED, why would New York decide to do away with such an established entity? Some argue the move is largely due to politics, and they might likely be right considering the GED has been around for about 70 years. Providing the GED and other tests is big business with total costs in the billions around the nation annually, so when cost cutting and austerity are big concerns, reducing the cost per student in the state for a test is an easy target. As the new test, called the TASC or “Test Assessing Secondary Completion” will likely see some changes in the coming years, adding in the previously mentioned computer aspects, even if just offered as a computerized exam. Preparing and registering for multiple exams is not a cost savings to the student however.

The final concern with the advent of new exams is what if a state creates its own exam, but another state does not recognize it? In the case of New York, what if a student takes the TASC, but the person with that certificate moves to New Jersey where it is unknown? The beauty of the GED, many argue, is that it is (or at least was) a universally known and accepted standard. We will see which exams withstand the test of time and quality in the coming years.


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