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David Recine

SAT Test Controversies

The SAT is a widely accepted college admissions test. Still, there is some controversy about using the SAT. Today we’ll look at some of the criticisms of this exam– and what these controversies mean for you as an SAT test-taker.

The SAT controversy over bias

Certain studies show possible evidence of bias on the SAT. This bias may be causing low income test takers and racial minorities to get lower scores on the exam.

The College Board– and some other educational research organizations– argue that the test itself is completely fair, but that certain groups of people in the US are unable to access to the high quality education they need in order to pass the SAT.

Other researchers argue that certain of the SAT questions are culturally biased, favoring one culture over another. These researchers argue that SAT questions include ideas and language that are more well-known among groups of Americans who have more money and more access to college preparatory education.

Needless to say, there is a lot of controversy surrounding the idea that the SAT is unfair. Some people feel the SAT may be unfairly preventing themselves or others from entering school. But school admissions offices who use the SAT and students who pass the SAT likely see the exam as a perfectly good tool.

The SAT controversy over exactly what the exam measures

The idea that the SAT might measure race, culture or socioeconomic status rather than measuring academic skills is unsettling. But other people have raised a controversial argument that the SAT doesn’t measure anything all that clearly.

The SAT is designed to predict college success. The theory is that if a student meets a certain SAT score, they are likely to do well in school if they are accepted. Currently studies show that student SAT scores do have some influence on how students do in their first year of college.

But there are many other factors in college student success. And some would argue that the SAT is not a very important factor in college success, and shouldn’t be used in admissions decisions. While many top-performing college students do have high SAT scores, other students who do poorly on the SAT have also gone on to do well in college. So some people have made a case against the SAT as a valid predictor of college success.

What these SAT controversies mean for you

Bear in mind that there are two sides to every controversy over the SAT. Some research certainly challenges the fairness of the test. But other research debates that the SAT is a fair test for all, regardless of wealth, race or culture. And either way, college admissions tests aren’t going to go away anytime soon. So you will need to prepare for the SAT (or ACT) to apply for different schools, even with the doubts some educators have about the test’s validity.

However, because educators do think carefully about the fairness and validity of the SAT, many universities are open to accepting students with lower-than-average SAT scores. If your score is below a school’s required minimum, it doesn’t hurt to contact the school and ask them if they’ll accept other proof of your scholastic abilities. In fact, there are some schools– even top ones– that have stopped using the SAT as an admissions requirement.

Whichever side we take on an SAT controversy, we can probably all agree that the fairness of standardized tests should be studied carefully. This is why the College Board is constantly researching the SAT and revising its design. Universities also carefully monitor fairness and exam-related controversy, working to make their admissions requirements valid and fair.

P.S. Ready to get your highest SAT score? Start here.
About David Recine

David is a test prep expert at Magoosh. He has a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and a Masters in Teaching English to Speakers of other Languages from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He has been teaching K-12, University, and adult education classes since 2007 and has worked with students from every continent. Currently, David lives in a small town in the American Upper Midwest. When he’s not teaching or writing, David studies Korean, plays with his son, and takes road trips to Minneapolis to get a taste of city life. Follow David on Google+ and Twitter!

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