SAT Gender Gap Grows Again

University Testing

While the gender gap on the Preliminary SAT (PSAT) exam has recently been cut in half through revisions forced by FairTest legal action (see Examiner, Summer 1999), female college applicants continue to fall further behind males on the SAT, on which similar “reforms” were not implemented.


According to the College Board’s 1999 College Bound Seniors, the SAT gender gap is now 43 points, the third consecutive year it has grown wider. In fact, the gender gap is at the highest level since the exam was revised in 1995, in part to reduce what test-makers labeled “gender related prediction differences.” The simple addition of a multiple-choice “Writing Skills” subtest reduced the PSAT gender gap to 20 points on the SAT scale.


On the rival ACT, taken by 84% as many seniors as the SAT, the gender gap remained at the equivalent of just 8 SAT points. Such a narrow difference in test scores may be justified by slight variations in academic preparation between high school males and females. There were no significant changes in score patterns for ethnic or income groups on either college admissions test (see accompanying charts, SAT, ACT).


At colleges which require minimum test scores for admissions and scholarship awards or use exam results in rigid equations to make high-stakes decisions, the SAT’s growing gender bias will cheat thousands of young women out of college admissions and scholarship aid they have earned by superior classroom performance. The test’s manufacturers have long admitted that the SAT overpredicts the college grades of males and underpredicts for females.


Despite their much lower SAT scores, young women earn higher grades than their male counterparts in both college and high school. First year college grades are all that the SAT supposedly predicts. The inaccuracy of this claim means that schools which rely on SAT scores to determine admissions or scholarship aid are denying females equal educational opportunity. Such practices violate Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, as a draft Department of Education “Resource Guide” makes clear (see Examiner, Summer 1999).