SAT favors the affluent

September 14, 2009 — by Synthia Ling and Pia Mishra

A major factor that determines a student’s acceptance into a college is their SAT score. Most college admission officers use the SATs as the basis upon which to judge their applicants, as grades can be dependent on a student’s school. As a result, students spend a large portion of their time studying and cramming for the test along in addition to their other load of homework. It is a test of a student’s knowledge, but it appears to be more and more an indication of the income of a student’s family.

In the background information section of the SAT, test takers voluntarily filled in how much money their families make. After tests were scored, statisticians use the data and have discovered the disturbing correlation between the income of the student’s family and their score. Essentially, the data pointed out that the more money students had, the higher they tested. On each test section—critical reading, writing and math—each rise in an income category boosted a student’s score by an average of 12 points.

For example, for each of the three sections, students whose families made less than $20,000 scored an average of 434, 457 and 430, respectively, while students whose families made more than $200,000 scored 563, 579 and 560. In order to do well on SAT tests, being intelligent is not enough; a strong fiscal source is essential. Students need to pay $45 just to take the test, not to mention the countless number of overpriced SAT prep books they purchase to help guide their studying. Although financial aid may be given to sign up for the tests, the price of the books adds up. As a result, students are often forced to turn to checking out these books from the library or borrowing them from friends. Though this option is infinitely more affordable, the prevents the students from practicing with up to date books that haven’t been used before.

Many students rely on SAT tutors as well. Tutoring is extraordinarily helpful for many students because they are given the chance to practice questions and familiarize themselves with the test. This helps students who can pay for an expensive tutor succeed regardless of their intelligence. Most SAT classes on average cost between $800-$1,000, varying based on class size and type. Although this tool may seem trivial, it often helps boost a student’s score much more than self-guided studying and puts the student at a clear advantage compared to the lower income students.

The SAT is a test that reveals a student’s aptitude. Yet if the intelligence can simply be bought, it is not true intelligence. Although colleges use this test as a standardized method to judge students from differing backgrounds, they fail to take into account the advantages or disadvantages students of different socioeconomic backgrounds face.

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