SAT, ACT Bias Persist

University Testing

Average scores increased slightly with the introduction of the new SAT, but remained unchanged on the ACT in this year's annual reports of the test performance of college bound seniors. Large differences remain among white males, females and members of most minority groups on both exams.


Many observers had hoped the College Board and Educational Testing Service (ETS) would use the redesign of the SAT to address flaws in their exam which exaggerate differences among racial, gender and income groups. But among 1995 college bound seniors, girls scored 43 points lower than boys on the SAT I: Reasoning Test, even though females earn higher average grades in both high school and college. Whites still score two hundred points higher than African Americans and more than one hundred points above all Latino groups.


On the ACT, the gender gap grew slightly to .3 points on that test's composite scale of 4 to 36. That difference is equivalent to about 12 points on the SAT. Scores for Mexican Americans, American Indians, African Americans and Caucasians all rose slightly, but fell for Puerto Ricans and Asian Americans. There was no overall change in the relative standing of any ethnic group.


Continuing a long-term trend, the proportion of college bound seniors taking the ACT instead of or in addition to the SAT rose again this year. In the 1995 high school graduating class, 88.5% as many students took the ACT as the SAT. This compares with an 84.9% ratio last year, and just 78.6% as recently as 1989. Over the past six years, the number of seniors who have taken the ACT has grown by 90,000, while high school graduates with SAT scores have declined by more than 20,000. Fifty-six percent of current ACT takers are female, compared with 53.6% of SAT takers, perhaps reflecting a growing recognition of the SAT s greater gender bias.


For more information on SAT and ACT bias, see FairTest publications including Sex Bias in College Admissions Tests, Annotated Bibliography on SAT Bias and Misuse, and SAT Fact Packet. Use order form on p. 27.