April 15, 2009
by Kerry M. King ('85)
Claudia Buchmann, associate professor of sociology at Ohio State, set the stage for the morning session of the “Rethinking Admissions” conference at Wake Forest by explaining some of the background of the SAT. Ironically, the SAT was introduced in 1926 to lessen the role of “social origin,” in college admissions, but it’s now having the opposite effect, she said. Rather than leveling the playing field, the SAT now functions as one more tool for advantaged family to ensure that their children are staying ahead in the college admissions process.
She noted that test prep is starting earlier and earlier, and is now being offered to middle-school students. A record number of students took the SAT last year.
Her research (see her charts and graphs) shows several important factors to consider in the SAT debate: Students from advantaged families are more likely to use SAT test prep-courses and books; test prep does result in significantly higher SAT scores, although not as much as the test-prep industry claims; and higher test scores increase the likelihood of a student enrolling in a four-year college, especially a highly selective college.