Millions of high school juniors and seniors take the SAT each year in hopes their score will help them get into their dream college. The SAT was originally designed to measure aptitude and college preparedness, but critics argue there is little evidence the SAT is actually a good indicator of either.
Research has shown a direct correlation between family income and a student's SAT scores, which suggests a student whose parents can afford tutors and prep classes are at an unfair advantage. Additionally, the SAT has "cultural and economic biases" that tend to hurt "low-income groups, racial minorities and females."
"The SAT and Admission: Racial Bias and Economic Inequality" by Ethan Biamonte gives an overview of how colleges implement the SAT into their application process and how it is “unethical for the SAT to be used in college admission because it has cultural and economic biases that oppress low-income groups, racial minorities and females.” Biamonte believes that the SAT has different kinds of biases that affect many groups of people.
There has been a growing movement among colleges to make the SAT score optional, and some studies have found doing so diversifies the student population. A new report titled "Defining Access: How Test-Optional Works" found that "while the degrees varied, institutions that went test-optional saw gains in the numbers of black and Latino students applying and being admitted to their institutions."
The SAT is an antiquated and discriminatory way of judging students, and we should define individuals by their accomplishments over a test score. As Christopher Chen argues in the Huffington Post:
The test is treated as a barrier for many low-income, minority students who cannot afford the $54 SAT test and test-preparation materials. It is treated as a restriction for students of a different culture who have different interpretations of words. It is treated as a limitation to the many diverse ethnicities, backgrounds to get that high score they need to go to college. Thus, America’s education system is in a critical and crucial position. A reform must take place to educate our society for the better, in order to flourish with academia all around.
But others argue the realities of the SAT are far more complicated than many realize. Susan Dynarski of the New York Times found colleges that made the SAT optional actually hurt low-income students even more.
Many people worry that college admissions tests are biased against low-income and nonwhite students. But disadvantaged students who do not take the tests are out of the running for selective colleges. While we may wish for a better approach, these tests are a gateway to selective schools.
Additionally, the merit-based SAT serves as a much better equalizer than most alternatives. Schools that adopted universal testing in place of teacher referrals found an increase in minority students "identified as gifted."
Universal testing has been shown to reduce racial, ethnic and income disparities. The Broward County school district in Florida started screening second graders for admission to a gifted program, instead of relying on teacher referrals. The universal program tripled the number of black and Hispanic children identified as gifted.
Steve Cohen argues in The Hill that the SAT is the last real benchmark to accurately compare students given things like grade inflation and a vast disparity in rigor between schools.
Colleges use the SAT... because it is a pretty reasonable benchmark by which to compare kids. College websites and recruiting brochures may proclaim that a student’s high school course selection and grades are the most important factors in admissions decisions, but insiders know that such proclamations are offered with a wink. Given the realities of rampant grade inflation and vast disparities in academic rigor at the high school level, colleges need some common denominator, however imperfect, for assessing applicants. Standardized tests offer such a benchmark.
The SAT may be imperfect, but until a better alternative is created, people should stop blaming the SAT.