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September 17, 2012 10:00 AM SAT Valid, Say SAT Administrators

By Daniel Luzer

Apparently new research determined that SAT results are really predictive of academic success, for all social classes. This is potentially interesting because for decades people have criticized the SAT because rich kids have higher scores. Is it therefore really fair to use the SAT to make admissions decisions?

Well maybe not “fair,” but it’s apparently justifiable. According to an article by Scott Jaschik at Inside Higher Ed:

A new study in the journal Psychological Science, however, says that the predictive value of the SAT is strong, especially when used in conjunction with high school grades, and that the use of the SAT has equal predictive accuracy for students from across a range of socioeconomic groups. Such a finding — based, as the research is, on multiple, large datasets — could be a strong counter to those who argue for making the SAT optional.

The study was financed by the College Board, the organization that owns and administers the SAT.

The major finding of the study is the SATs, together with high school grades, do a pretty good job predicting the success of students, no matter their family income.

But this study doesn’t really do much to justify the use of the SAT. Another major finding of the study was that it wasn’t low SAT scores that prevented poor people from succeeding in college; very few were even applying at all.

SAT critics caution that parts of the study are a little questionable. According to the Jaschik article:

Bob Schaeffer, public education director of FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing (a group that is highly critical of the SAT and standardized testing generally), questioned the findings of the new study. He noted that numerous other studies have found that high school grades in college preparatory courses are the best single predictor of first-year success.

The College Board-funded study indicted that SATs—combined with high school grades—are a great predictor of college success. Well great, except that high school grades alone are the really strong predictor of college success. In order to really indicate that SATs are strong, they’d have to predict the success of students in college independent of high school grades, and they just can’t do that.

Read about the study here.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer