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Cambodian students taking an exam in order to apply for the Don Bosco Technical School of Sihanoukville in 2008. A standardized test is any test that is administered and scored in a consistent manner to ensure legal defensibility. A non-standardized test is usually flexible in scope and format, variable in difficulty and significance. Since these tests are usually developed by individual instructors, the format and difficulty of these tests may not be widely adopted or used by other instructors or institutions. A non-standardized test may be used to determine the proficiency level of students, to motivate students to study, and to provide feedback to students. In contrasts to non-standardized tests, standardized tests are widely used, fixed in terms of scope, difficulty and format, and are usually significant in consequences.
Standardized tests are usually held on fixed dates as determined by the test developer, educational institution, or governing body, which may or may not be administered by the instructor, held within the classroom, or constrained by the classroom period. Any test with important consequences for the individual test taker is referred to as a high-stakes test. A test may be developed and administered by an instructor, a clinician, a governing body, or a test provider. In some instances, the developer of the test may not be directly responsible for its administration. Ancient China was the first country in the world that implemented a nationwide standardized test, which was called the imperial examination. The main purpose of this examination was to select able candidates for specific governmental positions.