SAT Not Biased Against Low-Status Students, Study Finds

Vincent Giordano | Dreamstime

Researchers have debated what SAT scores really reveal about a person, and, perhaps most importantly, whether the test actually predicts how well a student will do in college. A new study suggests the SAT is effective at this task and isn't biased against students from low-socioeconomic backgrounds.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota set out to investigate the validity of claims that the SAT is fundamentally biased against lower-status students, preventing them from getting into college. They analyzed data from 143,606 students at 110 colleges and universities, comparing their findings with data from the University of California system that had been studied previously.

The researchers said they found that both SAT scores and high school grades helped predict academic performance in college. And taking into account parents' education and family income had little effect on this relationship, according to the Association for Psychological Science, which published the study in its journal Psychological Science.

They also found that fewer students of low socioeconomic status were entering the college admissions process. Thus, these students might be underrepresented at colleges because fewer of them are applying in the first place, not because of low SAT scores.

"We view this as broadly relevant," University of Minnesota researcher Paul Sackett said in a statement. "Entrance tests such as the SAT receive a great deal of public scrutiny and it is important for all involved — students, parents, college officials — that accurate information about how the test functions be available."

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