The Problem with Standardized Tests

Posted by: Diane Brady on May 19, 2009

Employers often use standardized tests when assessing employees such as health care professionals, engineers, police officers and others. But new research from the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management suggests that such exams may prompt such negative reactions that they may do more damage than good.

If managers don’t take steps to make sure their people feel good about the tests, they may end up with a disgruntled workforce and fewer strong candidates for higher-level jobs.

Julie McCarthy, a professor of organizational behaviour (to use the Canadian spelling), looked at the use of promotional exams for Ontario police officers over the past several years. Her findings, which will soon be published in the journal Personnel Psychology: Officers who felt the process was fair were more likely to recommend it to other officers, widening the pool of candidates for top positions. Those who didn’t, or were gripped with anxiety, were more likely to do badly on the tests and dissuade others from taking them.

Makes you wonder how this applies to other areas, such as educational tests (from the GRE down to the standardized tests my 8-year-old son recently took). And it suggests that employers should have a strong interest in finding out how people feel about a test before it takes place.

 

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