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Standardized tests have their uses in college admissions

Op-ed contributor Carlene Buccino's argument against the objectivity of SAT scores is compelling but flawed ("The best test scores money can buy," Dec. 13). There is a robust literature that supports the use of SAT scores in the admissions process.

Generally, institutions of higher learning are well-versed regarding literature that suggests the cultural, socio-economic and gender biases of the SAT and other standardized exams. In fact, some institutions tier the SAT bottom-line in adherence to the literature.

In essence, when the literature supports a lower average score for a given cohort of applicants, the institution reduces the score necessary for admission. While this may outwardly appear as favoritism (by lowing standards), it is a practice supported by the data.

Research suggests that the best predictors of college-level and graduate school performance are grade point average, the predominant factor, coupled with standardized test scores. When SAT scores are coupled with GPA, the ability to predict performance is greatly improved.

When 30,000 high school students are applying for admission, having an SAT bottom line assists in the process of discovering "worthwhile" applicants, in the sense of people who fit the unique brand of an institution. For example, an art student applying to a technical school may not be an ideal fit for either the student or the institution.

There is also an experiential value to completing standardized exams prior to undergraduate studies. An ever growing volume of undergraduates are continuing their education, moving onto graduate and/or professional school. Numerous studies support experience/exposure results in improved scores. Translation: If you take the SAT now, you may be better prepared for the GRE, MCAT, etc.

Given the data, accepting a student with higher SAT scores is logical for many institutions. As the ability to predict student performance improves, so does the ability to predict graduation rates, students who will continue their education into graduate school, and more. It is an intellectual arms-race for the best students, who in turn become the best alumni.

Beyond academia, licensure exams and certifications are necessary in a number of industries. As a result, the ability to perform on standardized exams is critical. While one cannot directly equate performance on the SAT to performance on the Medical Boards or similar exams, exposure is still a piece of the puzzle.

Think about it. Would you want a physician who could not pass the minimum standards of their field?

Derek H. Trott

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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