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Chile has a long tradition in educational testing among Latin American countries. Along with frequent participation in international testing programs such as PISA, TIMSS, CIVED, ICCS, PIRLS and TERCE, Chile has developed a national standardize testing system called SIMCE to measure learning and achievement in primary and secondary students and schools, and a national selection test to enter tertiary education called PSU.
SIMCE aims to provide useful information about student achievement in different subjects and stages of primary and secondary education. SIMCE is a standardized external evaluation that measures content knowledge and student ability according to the national curriculum. In 2015, students from grades 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 from all Chilean schools undertook SIMCE testing in the subjects of mathematics, reading comprehension, and others.
Among South American countries, Chile has a significant trajectory in the use of a national selection test to enter tertiary education. From 1966 to 2002, students who wished to study at a university were required to take the University Aptitude Test (Prueba de Aptitud Universitaria, PAA). In 2003, the PAA was replaced by the University Selection Test (Prueba de Seleccion Universitaria, PSU), which aimed to reduce the gap between the test and school curricula by changing its focus from aptitudes to abilities and subject content.
The PSU tests student knowledge and abilities in four separate instruments. Two mandatory tests – language and mathematics – and two elective tests – history and social studies, and sciences. The tests are based on the updated curricula related to the last four years of secondary education.
For the first time in 2014, the science test elective included a special and unique module for applicants from technical-professional secondary schools. This allowed students from vocational schools to choose between the technical-professional elective module and the modules of biology, physics or chemistry.
Students’ results in these tests are combined with two other indicators that have been incorporated to give relevance to school outcomes and bridge the gap between students from different socio-economic backgrounds: the student’s average grade in the last four years of secondary education and, for the first time in 2014, the relative position of each student according to the average graduation grade of the previous three cohorts within the school.
Even though the use of the PSU system is not compulsory and universities and other tertiary education institutions are allowed to design and implement their own selection processes, 33 Chilean universities use the PSU as the main tool to select students (all 25 universities from CRUCH and 8 additional private universities). Many of them use other forms of student selection in addition to the PSU. However, most of tertiary education institutions that award vocational titles or professional degrees do not ask students to provide a PSU grade, and admit students according to their own requirements.