University Testing: National Merit

The most prestigious scholarship competition in the U.S., the National Merit Scholarships, use Preliminary SAT (nearly identical to the SAT I) scores as the sole criterion to select semifinalists. The resultant pool has historically been predominantly male because boys score higher on the PSAT even though girls earn higher grades in high school (and college). In 1993, FairTest filed a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) charging the testmakers with illegally assisting gender bias. As part of a settlement with OCR, ETS and the College Board agreed to add a new multiple-choice "writing" component to the PSAT. This simple change in test format significantly increased the percentage of National Merit semifinalists who are female, but girls are still cheated out of a fair share of awards by bias in the unreformed portions of the exam.

The following are FairTest Examiner articles about the National Merit Scholarship competition and other examples of test bias against females. A list of all Examiner articles from Spring 1995-current is also available.

Fall 1999
SAT Gender Gap Grows Again

Summer 1999
PSAT Revisions Further Narrow Gender Gap

Spring 1999
Gender Bias Victory Wins Millions for Females

Fall 1998
SAT Gender Gap Grows Again

Summer 1998
Research Confirms Harmful Impact of SAT Gender Bias

Winter 1998
Gender Gap Narrows on Revised PSAT

Fall 1997
SAT, ACT Gender Gaps Increase as Average Scores Edge Up
ETS Gender Bias Report a "Smokescreen"

Summer 1997
Revised PSAT Debuts in October

Winter 1997
New Studies Confirm Gender Bias

Fall 1996
Test-Makers Agree to Revised Gender-Biased Nat'l Merit Test
1998 Nat'l Merit Competition Remains Gender Biased

Fall 1995
SAT, ACT Bias Persist

Summer 1995
SAT Scores Hurt Berkeley Women
Prop. 48/16 Gender Bias

Spring 1995
National Merit Awards Again Biased Toward Boys

Read all of FairTest's Examiner articles on University Testing Reform

Read FairTest's fact sheets on the SAT and on gender bias to learn more about the ways college admissions tests disadvantage females.