By Lauren Chong
With more than 1.7 million students taking the SAT around the world, this standardized test is a crucial stepping stone for the path to college. A good score determines whether a student meet the benchmark standards for a certain college, while a lower score may bar one from admissions. The SAT’s critical role in college admission places pressure on students to score high. New research on the SAT shows that there may a simple solution to doing well on the SAT: take it early and several times.
College admissions is a struggle for those socio-economically disadvantaged or part of an underrepresented group. These groups often times do not have much access to information, which significantly decreases their chances of attending a four-year college. In fact, the new study finds that these disadvantaged groups are less likely to retake the SAT, which lowers their chances at a higher score.
Economists Joshua Goodman, Oded Gurantz, and Jonathan Smith studied 10 million students taking the SAT and found that retaking the test improved an average of 90 points out of 2400 (old SAT). Those who retook the SAT were much more likely to attend to graduate high school and attend four year college - likely because the score boost increased chances of getting accepted.
While this is a tactic already used by more than half of the students, Asian-Americans, whites and higher income students are much more likely to retake than those who are lower income or a minority group. Students with an income less than $50,000 are 21 percent less likely to retake than students with an income over $100,000.
Minority students often times do not know it is possible to take the SAT multiple times and miss deadlines for registering and overestimate costs for attending college. In addition, more than 40 percent of underrepresented students take the SAT for the first time in the beginning of senior year, which makes it more difficult to retake. In comparison, less than 20 percent of white and Asians take it senior year. This could explain why high income students are six times more likely to graduate college than low income students.
To counter this issue, raising awareness could be the first step. By implementing more college admission information into lower income schools, the students will become more aware of the information that many were lacking earlier on and take the steps necessary to attend a four year college. Counselors could make it more clear that they have fee waivers for these students, which could increase the chances of a retake. Another option would be only accepting the first try SAT, but that would only make the privileged students pour more energy into doing better on SAT and would not offer an advantage to students without access to these resources. In this case, encouraging more students to retake the SAT would be the most effective way to increase scores and level the playing field between the socio-economic levels - even if it is only a little bit.