In common usage, a high-stakes test is any test that has major consequences or is the basis of a major decision.
Under a more precise definition, a high-stakes test is any test that:
- is a single, defined assessment,
- has clear line drawn between those who pass and those who fail, and
- has direct consequences for passing or failing (something "at stake").
High-stakes testing is not synonymous with high-pressure testing. An American high school student might feel pressure to perform well on the SAT-I college aptitude exam. However, SAT scores do not directly determine admission to any college or university, and there is no clear line drawn between those who pass and those who fail, so it is not formally considered a high-stakes test. On the other hand, because the SAT-I scores are given significant weight in the admissions process at some schools, many people believe that it has consequences for doing well or poorly and is therefore a high-stakes test under the simpler, common definition.
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