Confusing Requirements? How to Ease the Student Journey
If there is one thing that students are often confused by in their educational experience, it's testing requirements and grading processes.
While many educators vary in their grading process, testing requirements and other standardized education requirements can often be confusing and challenging to navigate through—especially for international students who may not be versed in the education traditions in your school's country.
There are several things that educators and administrators can do to ease the pressure and confusion that comes with navigating new testing requirements and grading policies, and they all start with approaching the topic to increase transparency. Schools should consider themselves responsible for helping students navigate through testing and grading requirements to guarantee equity. If only a few students understand the way, the system works or understand what tests they need to complete and why it can leave other students behind over complications that were easily avoidable in the first place.
Below we've listed some more information, including context into some of the common issues that students—both local and international—may face when navigating through new grading or testing systems.
Depending on where your school is in the world, it's likely that standardized testing is required to be accepted into specific programs. In the United States, schools may require either the ACT or SAT from applicants for acceptance into the school. In the United Kingdom, the A-Level examinations are standardized tests required for entry into university programs. Scores on standardized tests often determine whether a student is fit for entry into a school program. The tests demonstrate the student's education level in mathematics, history, language, and writing.
Students need to know what standardized tests will be required to enter your school or university and the most commonly accepted scores. Prospective students should also be given resources to study for these tests and how and where they can take them. Schools and Universities should understand that not all students are informed on how to get into college. Providing equity in education means providing this information in easily accessible ways.
Studies on the impact of standardized testing in education suggest that standardized testing does little to provide educational equity and often reinforces educational inequity—particularly among students of color or students living in poor communities. Providing information on how to succeed can help students feel less intimidated when planning for their higher education career and help them succeed when they take these tests by providing them with the resources they need to succeed.
Alternatives to Standardized Testing:
Schools and Universities can also consider offering alternatives to standardized testing within the application process. Many point out that standardized testing is ineffective at providing racial and economic equity. It can make education more difficult for students with neurodiversity such as ADHD and/or those on the Autism Spectrum. Embracing students that are neurodiverse may require finding alternatives to standardized testing.
Alternatives to standardized testing might look like creating specific criteria for admissions within certain school programs. Students that are looking to enter humanities programs, for example, might better represent their skills through written work of art. Students looking to enter STEM programs, on the other hand, may not need to demonstrate a deep understanding of literary history and can instead demonstrate those skills learned within higher-level literature courses (such as critical thinking or interpretation) in other ways.
The Loyola University of Chicago released this article in 2016 to highlight how schools and universities around the world can better accommodate students without using standardized testing. The report emphasizes that standardized testing as a sole or significant indicator of a student's preparedness for college may not be accurate. Schools could incorporate additional measures to learn about prospective students beyond test scores.
For International Students
Many international students face unique challenges when navigating new testing requirements and grading. International student advisors can help ease some of those challenges by offering resources for international students to learn about these things in their native language. While your school may have language requirements, providing resources in a student's native language will help them feel more welcomed on campus and prepared to succeed in school.
Advisors who work with international students should create blog posts or Word documents that walk students through the information they need, from how your school's grading system works to any testing they may need to complete to remain enrolled in their program. These walkthroughs should also include information on how to sign up for classes, submit assignments, and even schedule a time to speak with professors.
Remember that what might seem archaic to you or your university may be utterly foreign to international students. Assume that international students will need help navigating even the most minor things. Take the time to make sure that international students feel prepared to take on the responsibility of attending college in a foreign country.