Aptitude tests aim to measure a person's ability or intelligence instead of his knowledge or achievement. For example, IQ tests, standardized tests such as the SAT, GRE and LSAT, and the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) are designed to measure aptitude and potential. Although aptitude tests are widely used in the U.S., critics argue that they do not accurately measure a student's potential.
Pro: Aptitude Tests Allow Objective Comparisons
Standardized aptitude tests, such as the SAT, provide a standard quantitative metric that universities and companies can use to compare students from different areas. In contrast, other metrics, such as GPA or class rank, cannot be effectively compared because a 3.0 from one school is not necessarily equivalent to a 3.0 from somewhere else. In addition, qualitative metrics, such as letters of recommendation, can be difficult to compare.
Con: Aptitude Tests Don't Measure All Areas
Aptitude tests traditionally neglect some areas of intelligence and ability, such as social ability, artistic capability, musical intelligence and spatial awareness. This may keep some talented students out of gifted classes or prevent them from attending highly ranked universities.
Pro: Aptitude Tests Are Efficient
Standardized aptitude tests are more efficient than most other strategies for measuring aptitude, such as oral exams, essays, locally designed tests or learning portfolios. Standardized aptitude tests are typically graded by machines. Some tests, such as the GRE, can even be taken on a computer and scored instantly.
Con: Aptitude Tests Aren't Fair
Critics of aptitude tests argue that they do not fairly assess intelligence. Minority and economically disadvantaged students typically do not perform as well on aptitude tests; tests may also be difficult for students who come from other cultures. In addition, many people believe it is possible -- even necessary -- to prepare for aptitude tests such as the SAT, which suggests that the test measures achievement as well as aptitude.
Rebekah Richards is a professional writer with work published in the "Atlanta Journal-Constitution," "Brandeis University Law Journal" and online at tolerance.org. She graduated magna cum laude from Brandeis University with bachelor's degrees in creative writing, English/American literature and international studies. Richards earned a master's degree at Carnegie Mellon University.