The gender discussion has come to a head in recent weeks in the news. The testing industry has been concerned with score discrepancies and gender for quite some time, though. Back in 1996, a complaint was filed against ETS when it came out that boys only made up 45% of the PSAT/NMSQT testers, but were receiving 60% of the National Merit Scholarships. To try to balance this bias, a writing section was added.
Now, over 20 years later, there is heartening news about the PSAT/SAT math score gender gap: at the higher end of the math scores, the gap has shrunk significantly. Why? There are several reasons: perhaps societal norms have made STEM studies more attractive to females. Maybe the common core curriculum has been successful. Or, it could be that the test truly is better and more gender equitable. No matter the reason, this is encouraging. The ACT math gender gap has also shrunk, but not quite at the rate of the PSAT/SAT gap.
Today, I’m not quite sure where the gender gap discussion is headed. (Sidenote: With the LGBTQ+ movement, one wonders how gender identity statistics will come into play.) There are still gender score discrepancies, but more troubling is the income achievement gap. Students who come from more affluent backgrounds tend to do better on these standardized tests. The College Board and Khan Academy have taken steps to level the playing field since one of the main goals of the SAT Redesign announced in 2014 was “opportunity.” The two organizations have partnered, creating robust review resources free to those who seek them out online. There are eight full-length SATs available at no charge on the College Board website. For the ACT, there is currently only one available.
These are just the beginnings of discussions regarding testing and how gender and socioeconomic factors play in. Of course, there can never be a completely “fair” test, but with the elimination of the testing requirement in the admissions process for many schools, that variable can be removed altogether.
Here are the ACT and College Board/SAT sites respectively, for more testing and practice information:
To read research about the Redesigned SAT in 2016 and its results, please see:
For more reading about the 1996 complaint and changes to the P/SAT, please see:
www.fairtest.org is where you can view a list of schools that are test-flexible or test-optional.