1998 Nat'l Merit Competition Remains Gender Biased

University Testing

The two-thirds of a million girls from the high school class of 1998 who entered the National Merit Scholarship competition by taking the Preliminary SAT (PSAT) this fall still face a stacked deck from the exam's gender bias. Of the 1.2 million juniors who sat for the exam, only the 1.5% with the top test scores in each state will be eligible for $25 million in National Merit awards.


A FairTest state-by-state analysis of the high school class which graduated in 1996 concluded that only 39.5% of the more than 15,000 National Merit Semifinalists -- selected solely on the basis of test scores -- are female, while 55% are male. The gender of 5.5% of the Semifinalists could not be determined from the names. Fifty-six percent of those entering the National Merit competition are female. Data for the class of 1998 are expected to be similar because the selection exam has not yet changed.


A selection system which accurately reflected academic achievement would result in young women earning about 1,000 additional scholarships annually. Unfortunately, a flawed test will, once again this year, cheat talented females out of $2 million in scholarships as well as immeasurable prestige.


For a copy of the state-by-state gender analysis, send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to National Merit at FairTest.