SAT Doesn’t Accurately Predict College Success, According to New Report

Posted By Eliana Osborn on February 16, 2016 at 11:49 am
SAT Doesn’t Accurately Predict College Success, According to New Report

The College Board recently rolled out a revamped SAT for 2016, a test designed to better align with high school curriculum as well as the skills required for college success.  But a new report to be published in the Journal of Educational Psychology raises some questions about how effective the SAT actually is at predicting student success in college.

A 2010 paper by Indiana University professors on the same subject got big attention from College Board – so much so that they had their own researchers publish a rebuttal.  But this year, authors Herman Aguinis, Steven A. Culpepper  and Charles A. Pierce are back with more on the subject.

Aguinis and company used the same data as the College Board researchers this time around, instead of simulation.  They studied 475,000 students from 176 colleges of all types to see the relationship between SAT scores and grade point averages during the first year of college.  After all, the point of requiring the SAT is to give administrators a glimpse of how students will do once they get to college.

On average, Aguinis and his coauthors found the same results as the previous researchers.  But in the specifics, not so much.  According to an IU press release, “admissions policies, grading approaches and academic support resources differ greatly by institution and even within them, which raises questions about how useful and fair the SAT can be as a predictor of student success across gender and ethnic groups.”

When it comes to grades, individual schools exhibit biases that reduces the efficacy of SAT scores, even if the average proves useful nationwide .  How a student earns a grade in a class is not a uniform process.  Every English Composition teacher scores differently.  As such, trends emerge in the data about which schools give grades that don’t match what the SAT score would indicate.

Because of sample size, differences in score applicability were not visible for Native American or Asian students.  But at 20% of colleges, black students’ critical reading section scores were not predictive.  The same percentage of schools were not predictive for Latinos on the mathematics portion.

Responding to the new study, the College Board stated that SAT scores should represent only one part of the college application picture.  Senior vice president for research Jack Buckley said to Inside Higher Education, “The College Board recognizes that student performance in college — and the extent to which SAT scores, high school grades and other student characteristics can predict that performance — reflects each unique campus environment and admission process as well as a host of individual student choices made after enrollment.”

The world of college applications is changing.  From schools that don’t require standardized test scores to holistic admissions, the SAT may be losing relevance.

Eliana Osborn
Eliana Osborn is an associate English professor at Arizona Western College, with degrees from Brigham Young University and Northern Arizona University. She’s published widely in forums such as The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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