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Search for Ability, The

Search for Ability, The: Standardized Testing in Social Perspective

Copyright Date: 1963
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Search for Ability, The
    Book Description:

    A significant and eye-opening examination of the current state of the testing movement in the United States, where more than 150 million standardized intelligence, aptitude, and achievement tests are administered annually by schools, colleges, business and industrial firms, government agencies, and the military services. Despite widespread acceptance of these ability tests, there is surprisingly little systematic information about their use or effect. This book examines, raises questions about, and points the way to needed research on ability testing. It considers the possible social, legal, and emotional impact on society, the groups and organizations that make use of the tests, and the individuals who are directly affected by the results.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-635-8
    Subjects: Psychology, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-2)
  2. Foreword
    (pp. 3-6)
    Orville G. Brim Jr.

    This book is the first in a series of reports on the social consequences of ability testing, for which publication is planned by Russell Sage Foundation. Dr. Goslin’s study analyzes the striking change which has taken place in our society during the past half-century in the development and use of ability tests in assigning individuals to positions in society, and in creating opportunities for social mobility .

    The increasing use of tests in the United States constitutes a change in emphasis from traditional bases for the determination of status, such as race, sex, religion, and order of birth, to a...

  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 7-8)
    David A. Goslin
  4. Table of Contents
    (pp. 9-12)
  5. I Introduction
    (pp. 13-16)

    Although information about the extent of testing is sparse, it appears that between 150 million and a quarter of a billion standardized ability tests of many different kinds are being administered annually in the United States by schools, colleges, business and industrial firms, and government agencies, including the military services, in an effort to evaluate the intellectual capabilities of potential and existing personnel.

    In spite of the extensive use of objective tests by many different groups, testing has become a source of controversy. Critics of current practices have become more vocal with the increase in test use. Test publishers and...


    • II Ability Testing in Historical and Social Perspective
      (pp. 19-44)

      The evaluation of individual abilities is not a recent phenomenon. From the very beginnings of human society, men undoubtedly have compared themselves to other men with respect to their skill in hunting and fighting. Women probably have vied with one another in the preparation of food, the care of their children, and their ability to attract the male of the species as long as societally prescribed differences between the roles of men and women have made such comparisons appropriate. Children, no doubt, have been tested and graded ever since schools first came into existence, and before that, their abilities were...

    • III An Overview of Ability Testing Today
      (pp. 45-54)

      No one knows with certainty how many standardized tests are being given every year, what proportion of the population is being or has been tested, or precisely what use is made of the scores that result. The impression, which is supported by sales figures from commercial test publishers, anguished pleas from school administrators for a reduction in the number of external testing programs, the frequency of announcements of Civil Service examinations in newspapers, and the growing number of test coaching courses, is that testing has become a major activity in American society, and that test scores are playing an increasingly...

    • IV Testing in Education
      (pp. 55-94)

      The uses of standardized ability tests in schools and colleges generally fall into one of two categories: internal testing which is carried on within the school or college by the institution for purposes of its own, and external testing which may or may not take place in the school, but which is sponsored by outside organizations (often other schools) primarily for the benefit of the outside group. Some test results, of course, may be used by both an external agency and the school itself, but most of them can be classified by major purpose into one or the other of...

    • V Testing in Business and Industry, Government, and the Military
      (pp. 95-120)

      In preceding chapters we presented an overview of current testing practices in the United States; in addition, we examined educational uses of ability tests in some detail. In this chapter the discussion will be extended to include testing by business and industry, the government (including the federal civilian service as well as state and local merit systems), and the armed forces. It should be noted, however, that ability tests are used by other groups and organizations as well. Custodial institutions (both penal and rehabilitative) and a variety of professional groups are cases in point. The former use tests for diagnosis...


    • VI What Ability Tests Measure
      (pp. 123-152)

      In the introduction to this monograph, we defined ability test as instruments for the measurement of intelligence, special aptitudes, and achievement. In addition, we narrowed our present field of interest to standardized, objective ability tests. This definition, however, leaves something to be desired. Just what does an “IQ” test measure? What do we mean when we talk about ability? To what extent are abilities changeable or modifiable over time? Suppose that we can agree on a definition of “intelligence” or “mathematical aptitude,” how accurately do standardized tests measure these qualities? And, even more important, of what use is such a...

    • VII The Value of Tests in Prediction
      (pp. 153-168)

      Of what relevance is the ability to perform well on a standardized test to the ability to perform in subsequent, different situations? We have made note of the fact that tests measure whatever ability is required to answer the questions on the test, and that several variables are involved in this process. Tests, however, regardless of what quality or syndrome of abilities they describe, are used primarily for the purpose of making statements about the future performance of the person taking the test. The ultimate test of a test, therefore, is its usefulness in predicting behavior at some future point...


    • VIII The Impact of Testing
      (pp. 171-192)

      The development and widespread acceptance of standardized ability tests in the United States has produced a situation unique in the history of the world. Never before has any society so conscientiously sought to evaluate scientifically the intellectual abilities of its members and to provide each individual with opportunities consonant with his aptitude. The shift away from the traditional bases for the ascription of status to this new criterion, performance on an objective test of intellectual ability, has occurred so rapidly that up to now, little attention has been paid to the impact of the change on the society and its...

  9. INDEX
    (pp. 193-204)