Study Defends Standardized Tests

    Standardized testing is a more reliable determinant of student success than academic experience and does not discriminate against minority students, according to a study conducted by University of Minnesota researchers.

    The study, a “”meta-analysis”” that examined statistics and data on graduate admissions tests including the Graduate Record Examination, the Medical College Admission Test, the Law School Admission Test and the Graduate Management Admission Test, found that test scores accurately predict graduate and professional school performance, including “”first-year grades, overall grades, licensing exams, faculty ratings, degree attainment and research productivity,”” according to a statement released by the University of Minnesota, the site of the study.

    The study, published in Science, concluded that grade inflation and competion within college classes may skew GPA, and that a combination of test scores and grades best predicts student success. In addition, the researchers found that standardized testing is not biased against minority students.

    “”Over half a million students’ data were considered in our study, and groups of universities also contributed information to the big picture,”” said study author Nathan Kuncel, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota. “”It is the largest and most comprehensive synthesis of graduate school admissions.””

    Despite the study’s focus on graduate and professional school admissions, Kuncel said that since the SAT, ACT and standardized tests for graduate schools have similar structures, the results should be similar for undergraduate admissions.

    However, UC Office of the President Director of Undergraduate Admissions Susan A. Wilbur disputed the applicability of Kuncel’s results to undergraduate admissions.

    “”Our studies of the predictive validity of freshman admissions tests suggest that an applicant’s grade point average, rather than the admissions tests, is the stronger predictor of academic success at the university,”” Wilbur said.

    One of the main criticisms of standardized testing is its effect on minority enrollment. Black and Latino students generally receive lower test scores than white and Asian students. Kuncel’s study, however, found no evidence of bias in the testing material; it concluded that reasons behind underrepresented minority students’ lower averages stem from other societal factors.

    “”Students who can afford expensive preparatory courses and coaching for these standardized tests tend to score higher than those who cannot,”” Kuncel said. “”The lower scores have nothing to do with the test questions themselves.””

    Robert Schaeffer, the public education director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, also criticized the study, saying it ignored research with opposite results. He compared the study to research funded by the tobacco industry to show that nicotine in cigarettes is not addictive.

    “”Kuncel has done substantial work for the testing industry and has received money from various test organizations,”” Schaeffer said. “”People have to be suspicious [of] this.””

    Kuncel, however, said that the testing industry did not financially sponsor this particular study.

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