The Effectiveness of the SAT in Predicting College Performance

Sat Prep Effectiveness

While SAT scores correlate very strongly to an individual’s performance in college and thereafter when they enter the workforce, they do not give the full picture. There is much more to success, both in college and in the wider world than the scores of one test. Various studies have shown that while some kids perform poorly in high school and still manage to pull out of their tailspin in college, this is not the case in the vast majority of scenarios. Factors that may make a student change course include taking SAT prep seriously and also finding subject majors in college that they enjoy.

Family Background, High School Grades and College Performance
Several studies have shown that students who come from homes with educated families tend to perform better on the SAT than students who come from less-educated, working class backgrounds. In families with a tradition of education, both high school performance and test scores tend to correlate with the student’s collegiate grades. This may be due to the possibility that parents who are themselves educated may be more inclined to participate in their child’s learning experience than parents who have had limited schooling. It may also be due to these students having access to educational resources that poorer students do not. This, of course, does not mean that the students from backgrounds without the tradition of education do not sometimes work hard and do well despite being their disadvantages. In fact, in some cases students who do poorly change course in college and wind up improving their grades. In other cases students take their SAT prep seriously and get a good score on the test even after having poor grades throughout high school. There are exceptions to the rule, but such stories, however, are not the norm.

Controversial Aspects of the Test
One accusation launched at the test’s makers has been that there is a bias inherent in the test. This bias is said to be against poorer people. Critics say that wealth is a factor in test performance as some students are able to pay thousands of dollars on coaching to pass the test whereas others are not. As a result of the criticism, College Board, the SAT’s administrators, have revamped it to include a writing section along with other changes. The idea is to reduce the advantage of coaching by making the test less easy to coach. The other changes include raising the point totals. Previously, students were able to score as many as 1,600 points, after the changes this rose to 2,400 points. The writing section has also made the test longer. The total time to take the test was raised to three hours and forty-five minutes, up from three hours. Still, critics say that the writing section is not enough as it is both overly simple and students may still be coached to pass it.

How Colleges View the New Writing Portion
Many colleges choose to ignore the writing section when assessing students for acceptance. The perception is that it does not do enough to reflect the writing skills of those taking the test. Some of the colleges who are skeptical of the writing section’s value, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Georgetown University, are quite well-known. The writing portion of the test consists of a set of multiple choice grammar questions and an essay. The essay portion requires students to read a quotation, and then write an essay to support their position with regard to the quotation. While some critics remain doubtful of the writing test’s efficacy in predicting which students will do well and which will not, some have responded positively to the changes made by College Board. The University of California is among those who have accepted the test after threatening to discontinue its use.

College Board’s Response to Criticism
College Board’s senior vice president, Lawrence Bunin has defended the writing section and the test as a whole, saying that the writing section has proven to be both “highly reliable” and “valid.”

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