High Stakes Assessment



High-stakes assessment refers to any test given where results lead to major/significant consequences, or any test that is a basis of a major decision.  As its name implies, “the stakes are high” in taking the test. It is also sometimes called accountability test.

Some uses of High-Stakes Assessment:

  • To determine whether schools have met national standards
  • To determine if the examinee is eligible for promotion to the next grade level
  • To determine if the examinee is eligible for graduation
  • To determine if the examinee is eligible to practice certain profession and worthy to be awarded a license (doctor of medicine; engineer; teacher; architect; nurse; etc.)
  • To determine if the examinee is qualified to enter a university or school
  • To determine if the examinee is qualified for a scholarship
  • To determine if the examinee is qualified to work in a company

Some Examples of High-Stakes Assessment:

  • bar exams; board exams/professional licensing exams
  • D oral exams
  • school entrance exams (UP College Assessment Test or UPCAT; Ateneo College Entrance Test or ACET; National Competitive Examination or NCE, other university entrance exams)
  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)
  • Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) and other school aptitude exams
  • driver’s qualifying test
  • Kumon completer’s exam

Advantages of High-Stakes Assessment:

  • Test has clear and well defined standards and can provide information on the examinee’s learning achievements, and whether the students and the school have met the set standards.
  • Test result of examinee’s performance can be a basis for comparison that can be used for future planning.
  • Test can provide information on which areas need more work.
  • Test highlights the examinee’s learning strengths and gaps, and information can be used to improve curriculum and instruction.
  • Test motivates the examinee to study hard and give his/her best performance in order to get the reward equated to passing the test (diploma, license, acceptance to university or company, etc.).

Disadvantages of High Stakes Assessment:

  • Test does not correctly measure the true capability and knowledge of the examinee. There are other factors that may affect the test results such as anxiety, sickness or feeing unwell when test is taken, motivation, among many others.
  • Test creates an atmosphere of anxiety, tension, and stress detrimental to learning.
  • Test puts so much pressure on the teachers that they sometimes just teach the test (reveal assessment test questions and just let the students memorize the answers), and the whole purpose of assessment is defeated.
  • Test narrows the curriculum and limits the learning. Teachers and students tend to focus only on the materials that are likely to appear in the test and ignore the other lessons.
  • Test consumes time for memorizing and reviewing for the high-stakes test, rather than use the time for real learning.
  • Test limits the student’s ability to use cognitive skills. The test only requires the use of low level thinking skills in memorization and recalling of information.  The test does not assess the test taker’s high level cognitive skills.
  • Test triggers unhealthy competition.
  • Test may create incorrect interpretations about the examinee’s true capabilities, and may hamper the examinee’s chance to prove himself/herself worthy of whatever is at stake.
  • The negative result of a single high-stakes test may unfairly ruin examinee’s educational and professional career or unfairly hinder his/her chance of a good future.



High-stakes assessment has its advantages and disadvantages, and I strongly believe that a person should never be defined based solely on a test. A person should never be judged based on the result of a single high-stakes test. It is always safe and fair to use multiple types of assessment to gauge’s one’s true capabilities and intelligence.


Study.com (n.d.). High-stakes testing: Accountability and problems. Retrieved from http://study.com/academy/lesson/high-stakes-testing-accountability-and-problems.html