NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

SAT Gap No Wider Than Grade Gap

November 1, 2001

Should the SAT be eliminated as a criterion for student admission in order to maintain diversity? There are gaps in SAT scores among income and ethnic groups. However, research shows that dropping the SAT and relying more heavily on grade-point averages would not have much effect on diversity.

  • According to the College Board, the average SAT score for high school seniors whose families earn less than $20,000 is below 900, while students with family incomes over $100,000 score above 1100, on average.
  • There are ethnic gaps too, with white students, for example, averaging 200 points more than blacks.

However, a 1995 study by the National Center for Education Statistics found that these differences also apply to grade point averages. About the same proportions of college-bound high school seniors met academic criteria similar to those used by prestigious colleges:

  • By ethnic group, SAT scores of at least 1100 points ranged from 2 percent to 28 percent, and among socioeconomic groups, ranged from 32 percent of the "high" group to 9 percent of the "low" group.
  • Also, the percentages of students with grade-point averages of at least 3.5 were nearly the same as on the SAT.

Similarly, a 1997 University of California study found that eliminating the SAT at UC would produce very small changes -- 1 percent or less -- in the eligibility rates for minorities, but would increase the eligibility rate for whites.

In fact, less than 3 percent of high school graduates were ineligible based solely on test scores. Most were ineligible because they lacked required courses or grades.

Source: Rebecca Zwick, "Making the grade: the SAT versus the GPA," San Francisco Chronicle, October 29, 2001.

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