Ah, we have different definitions of standardized tests. What you're referring to I would probably call a subject test, for lack of a better term. In the US, when something is a standardized test it's a test you can't really study for as you're not really sure what will be on it. Of course things tend to be the same over the years so you get an idea, but it's not a subject test. I certainly wouldn't call our ACTs or SATs IQ tests, but I think they may be closer to that than a subject test.
OK. Thought it was something like that.
Looking through that test, it looked very similar to the AP Physics B test I took (algebra based physics - our school didn't offer C - calc based physics).
They don't include calculus in Physics, though the calculus we do in A-level Maths + Further Maths is easily able to handle it. I think it's government interference to encourage the uptake of Physics.
I doubt the AP tests are not up to par with A levels, but are simply different. AP's are supposed to take the place of college level classes - not to be used for admission requirements. The point of AP is to take a college level class in college and the way to prove you've actually learned it is to take the AP test. It's possible to just take the test, but it's generally accepted that you should probably take an AP class as well. Out of curiosity, do you know if IB tests are accepted?
OK. IB tests are accepted, they are considered to be equal to A-levels but you need to do more work for the same consideration.
Basically, APs are for getting ahead so you don't have to pay so much money in college for entry level classes like Calculus, Physics, and Literature.
Right. Here, we don't have such entry level classes except for the very weak. How many years is typical at universitiy for you (and from what age) up to a bachelor's degree?
And yeah, it sucks that APs are not available everywhere, but that's America and capitalism for you.
I do think the UK state education sector is better and more evenly funded than America's.
I would be much more open to a system like that - tests that you can actually study for and know what will be on them. However, I do think that GPA and some extra curriculars and such are needed. Grades are typically a good indication of someone's work ethic and when paired with the results from the subject tests could probably be a very good indicator. Extra curriculars are used to show that people can handle extra work and sometimes allows for extra skills to be gained that may actually be useful for college. For example, I know many people are very impressed if someone is an Eagle scout - it shows multiple years of dedication and hard work - both are needed for college.
The top universities here, (Oxford, Cambridge, UCL, Imperial) which can easily match America's Ivy League type universities, pretty much only accept based on A-level grades and interview*. When I went on open days those universities repeatedly stated that they didn't care about scouts etc., they'd actually rather you didn't mention it at interview, and they didn't want well rounded people (verbatim).
I don't believe they affect you ability to study and from what I can see it's unfair on the academically brilliant but not well rounded people in the US who have to waste hours on that kind of thing just to look good on the application when they could be studying. Especially for the sciences/maths.
*Interviews are almost purely academic, asking you to talk through given problems.