How Problematic is The SAT?

How Problematic is The SAT?

The SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) has been around since 1926. In recent years, there has been some discussion around how this test is inherently gender and racially/culturally biased. Currently, there are multiple lawsuits against the California school system, claiming that the SAT violates the state’s anti-discrimination statute because it “disadvantages children of color, children from low income families and children with disabilities.” Research from seems to support this notion. According to, in 2018, combined SAT scores for Asian and White students averaged 1100, compared to other groups who scored an average below 1000. Another study in 2015 found families with an income of less than $20,000 scored lowest on the test, and those with family income above $200,000 scored highest. The average reading score from the 2015 test for lower income families was 433 and the average score for students from higher income families was 570.

How high you score also has a lot to do with test prep classes, research shows. However, test prep classes can be quite expensive, which means not everyone can afford them. Another contributing factor in SAT scores is the overall quality of education you receive. High income students often have greater access to high quality educational opportunities compared to students in lower income families. Another issue raised is the impact of stereotype threats. For example, the belief that a certain racial group is good at science and another is not can cause self-doubt and increases stress and anxiety, which impacts test performance. According to the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, reminding students of their racial group before a test can have an impact on their score.

There is also a claim of gender bias surrounding the SAT. While analyzing math SAT scores from the graduating class of 2019, it was found that girls averaged 519 while boys averaged 537. This gap isn’t as large as the racial/economic gap but it’s still concerning. Gender discrepancy has been blamed on several factors. Women are often negatively stereotyped to underperform in math compared to their male peers, which can contribute to stereotype threat in test performance. According to the, there is also evidence that passages in the test lack women characters and/or describe activities stereotypically associated with men. Some research has attributed gender disparities in scoring to the multiple choice format of the test. It has been shown that boys are more likely than girls to guess when they don’t know the answers, which can give boys an edge on scoring.

This year at Cleveland, the test was administered on April 13 free of charge by the district. According to Jan Watt, special projects coordinator, 304 juniors took the SAT this year and 61 opted out. Last year, 200 students took the test and the year before that, 270 students participated. It seems there was an increase in test takers this year, but the reason is unknown. Perhaps, difficulty with access due to Covid over the past couple years had something to do with it, Watt said.

When asked about the relationship between SAT scores and performance in school, Watt said that a student’s SAT score is not a good representation of how well a student performs in school.

“Some kids are just lousy standardized test takers,” she said. “I’m one of them, I’m horrible. A more accurate measure would include asking, what do their recommendations look like? What do people say about them? How does the student write their essay? How do they write? And what the heck have they done, in the four years here? Have they just walked into the school building at 8:30 and walked out as soon as that bell rings? Or has that person contributed to the community?”

According to, “more than two thirds of colleges and universities don’t require the SAT for 2022 admission and the University of California system has dropped the test as an admission requirement permanently.” Many colleges were already test optional long before this. Colleges all over the country are seeing the inherent problems with the SAT and also realizing that the test is neither an accurate measure of how capable and smart an individual is nor a good predictor of their potential performance in the college classroom.