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Sat and College Success

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Standard tests, such as SAT and ACT, have always been regarded as the strongest predictors of

students’ future college performance. However, of these years, its validity has become one of

the hottest debate among American campuses. In fact, several individual institutions have

carried out validity researches in order to find out the reliability of standard tests.But such

researches show that the SAT has a weak predictive ability. One study* at the University of

Pennsylvania looked at the power of SAT I, and SAT II in predicting cumulative college GPAs.

Researchers found that the SAT I and SAT II were the weakest predictors, explaining only 4%

and 6.8% of the variation in college grades respectively. Another study** of 10,000 students at

11 selective public and private institutions of higher education found that a 100-point increase

in SAT combined scores, regardless of race, gender, and field of study constant, led to a one-

tenth of a grade point gain for college GPA. Also, present findings in Wake Forest University

show that black students who graduated from college had significantly lower SAT scores than

white students. But they both graduated with the same college GPA. Thus, according to the

above three researches, the SAT is hardly a viable predictor of college success.

Although professor Robert J. Vanderbei from Princeton University thought that SAT is ‘a

challenging, well-thought-out test’, and it tests all achievement, aptitude, grammar and

cleverness, a lot of other people believe that standard tests fail to test a student’s knowledge

and potential. For example, Professor Christopher Harper from Temple University found that

the tests emphasized speed and stamina over knowledge and critical contemplation, and the

essay question often fails to include analysis of research and inclusion of data, which are the

*(J. Baron & M. F. Norman in Educational and Psychology Measurement, Vol. 52, 1992)

**(Vars, F. & Bowen, W. in The Black-White Test Score Gap, 1998)

major components of critical thinking. The view of professor Christopher Harper implies that

SAT requires skills, not knowledge. It matches the criticism stated in Robert L. Lin which claims

that SAT only emphasizes on lower-level skills, require only recognition rather than production.

It means that short-term coaching can greatly improve a student’s performance in standard

tests. Also, students from affluent families can receive more trainings from tutorial schools

which focus only on test skills than poor students. This further undermines the validity of

standard tests.

Furthermore, many people also criticize that SAT is a biased test. The research in Wake Forest

University and an extensive research complied by Derek Bok and William Bowen in The Shape

of the River both highlights the uselessness of using standard tests to reflect black or African-

American students’ potential. It was explained in Robin L. Lin’s article that black people may

receive less preparation in high school. Also, students whose first language isn’t English are also

underestimated by standard tests. One study at the University of Miami compared Hispanic and

White students. Though both groups earned equivalent college grades, the Hispanic students

received on average combined SAT I scores that were 91 points lower than their non-Hispanic

White peers. Finally, standard tests also have poor predictive ability for the college

performance of females. It was said that females’ grades were always underestimated. Females

on average score 35-40 points lower than males on the SAT I, but receive better college grades.

So, according to the aforementioned information, the SAT seems to have a bias towards

minorities and females.

To conclude, although standard tests can give universities an absolute score for each students,

They fail to accurately reflect students’ future college success and they have bias against

several minorities groups.

1. Works Cited

Linn, Robert L. "Admissions Testing: Recommended Uses, Validity, Differential Prediction, and Coaching." Applied Measurement in Education 3.4 (1990): 297. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 29 Sept. 2011.

2. Works Cited

Harper, Christopher, and Robert J. Vanderbei. "Two Professors Retake the SAT: Is It a Good Test?." Chronicle of Higher Education 55.39 (2009): A30-A31. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 29 Sept. 2011.

3. Works Cited

Lawlor, Sarah, Susan Richman, and Charles L. Richman. "The validity of using the SAT as a criterion for black and white students' admission to college." College Student Journal 31.4 (1997): 507. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 29 Sept. 2011.

4. fairtest

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