The SAT is used for two purposes at the University of California. First is eligibility: Determining whether applicants meet the minimum requirements for admission to the UC system. Second is admissions selection: At high-demand campuses such as Berkeley, with many more eligible applicants than places available, test scores are used to select from among them. UC policy delegates authority to the faculty at each campus to establish local admissions procedures that reflect “campus values and academic priorities.” Under the proposal outlined here, while retaining the test for eligibility, Berkeley would eliminate the SAT (and ACT) as a factor in local admissions decisions. There are strong reasons for doing so. With the advent of “holistic” review in Berkeley admissions, the SAT has become almost entirely redundant and adds little to the much richer body of information now available in applicants’ files. After taking that information into account, the SAT predicts less than 2 percent of the variance in students’ first-year grades at Berkeley. This introduces a considerable element of error in admissions decisions, as many students predicted to perform well actually perform worse than those with lower scores, and vice versa. Most troubling, the SAT has a severe adverse effect on admission of students of color beyond what is warranted by test validity. There is clear evidence, much of it produced by Berkeley researchers, that the SAT exhibits differential prediction, differential item functioning, and related psychometric issues when used with black and Latino examinees. National testing standards oblige colleges and universities to be sensitive to such issues, but in California, Proposition 209 bars sensitivity to race in admissions decisions. If Berkeley cannot consider race as a contextual factor in admissions, neither should it consider SAT scores. The cost of the SAT, in terms of its adverse impact on students of color, is far out of proportion with its marginal benefit as an indicator of student success at Berkeley.
May 1, 2016
Research and Occasional Papers Series (ROPS)
A PROPOSAL TO ELIMINATE THE SAT IN BERKELEY ADMISSIONS By Saul Geiser CSHE 4.16 (May 2016)