Does the SAT Cater to Students of Particular Cultures?

In recent years, several studies have suggested that the SAT exam, as well as other standardized tests, is culturally biased. This is evidenced by the fact that different cultural groups perform at varying degrees. Test experts are beginning to ask themselves whether the tests are inherently biased or if the policies surrounding the test are biased. Some have claimed that the discrepancy in scores is due not to ethnicity, gender, or culture, but to circumstances common to specific geographic areas and the availability of access to better education. Even when the means to access independent and private schools is available, when students have access to ISEE (independent school) entrance exams and private ISEE tutors, many educators say the playing field is not level because area schools cannot prepare students for the cognitive struggle peers are already accustomed to confronting due to different access to education.

Researchers claim that cultural groups may perform similarly as a result of similar schooling. The home cultures of many students are not providing adequate preparation for these exams, according to some experts.

Example questions that critics have used in the past to demonstrate bias often included analogies. One particular question was said to have a cultural bias toward wealthier students, as it was a question analogizing an oarsman to a regatta. Rowing is a sport more popular among higher end segments of society, giving some students an advantage based on culture alone. Other questions were related to fruits, with students asked to compare the sizes of fruits considered to be more exotic in the United States. Researchers suggest that the potential for bias is not as large as it once was, as analogy questions have been replaced with questions related to reading comprehension.

Other studies suggest that students who come from families with higher incomes are more likely to achieve higher test scores regardless of access to independent schools. Some researchers have determined that there may be a 40-point average increase for each additional $20,000 a family earns annually. This is possibly attributed to access to tutoring services and higher quality institutions. Students who find themselves requiring additional help have access to it if they have more expendable income.

As far as more acceptable testing methods go, researchers are unsure of the most effective way to test each individual equally across the board. The College board is aware of potential culturally biased questions in exams and has claimed that a team of reviewers examines each question for potential gender, racial and geographical bias.

Some universities have dropped the requirement to take the SAT in order to be accepted into their institutions, but it is unclear what the future holds for the SAT exam; this is still the exception rather than the rule. Private SAT tutors are still in high demand and legitimate companies like The Launch Education Group run great programs focused specifically on SAT preparation. The most desirable institutions in the country still uphold this requirement, making it quite difficult for students to turn down the opportunity to take the exam in protest.

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