The systematic of key cognitive competencies is of high scientific and societal relevance, as is the availability of high-quality data on cognitive competencies. In order to make well-informed decisions, politicians and educational authorities need high-quality data about the effectiveness of formal and non-formal educational environments. Similarly, researchers need strong data to test complex theoretical models about how individual biographies are shaped by the interplay between individual and institutional affordances and constraints. Innumerable data sets offer some form of information on competencies such as respondents' years at school and their school grades. Such data are relatively easy to collect. When it comes to making informed political and educational decisions, however, there are increasing calls for a more systematic use of standardized competence tests. The production, storage, and use of standardized test data on competencies in specific domains is expensive, complex, and time-consuming, however. This chapter argues that there is a paucity of adequate data on cognitive competencies in important domains, especially of longitudinal data from standardized competence tests, and that for many important questions there are no good alternatives to high-quality standardized tests of cognitive competencies. Furthermore, it outlines some challenges in the construction and application of standardized competence tests and makes several recommendations.
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