SAT II called better predictor than SAT I
Achievement tests less affected by students’ background, study says

07 November 2001 | A new study of standardized testing released Oct. 25 by the UC Office of the President finds that SAT II achievement tests are better predictors of UC freshman grades than the SAT I reasoning test. It also found that SAT II scores are much less affected by differences in students’ socioeconomic backgrounds.

The study, “UC and the SAT: Predictive Validity and Differential Impact of the SAT I and SAT II at the University of California,” examines the relationship between test scores and academic outcomes based on the records of nearly 78,000 first-time freshmen who entered the UC system over a four-year period.

The university has required freshman applicants to submit both SAT I (or ACT) scores and SAT II scores since 1968. As a result, UC has an extensive database on the two tests and is uniquely positioned to analyze their relative ability to predict college success.

Among the study’s findings:

• The SAT II achievement tests are a consistently stronger predictor of UC freshman grades than the SAT I. Scores from the SAT I add very little, if anything, to the prediction of UC first-year grades once high school grades and SAT II scores are taken into account.

• When schools are ranked using the state’s Academic Performance Index, the SAT II tests remain a better predictor than the SAT I across all schools.

• SAT I scores are more sensitive to students’ socioeconomic background than are SAT II scores. After controlling for socioeconomic background, the power of the SAT I to predict UC freshman grades is substantially diminished, while the predictive power of the SAT II remains strong.

• Eliminating the SAT I in favor of the SAT II achievement tests likely would have little effect on the ethnic composition of students admitted to UC, since students from different ethnic groups perform about the same on the SAT II as they do on the SAT I, with only minor differences.

The study is available at The data on which the report is based can also be found there.

In February, UC President Richard Atkinson proposed to the Academic Senate that UC no longer require the SAT I in freshman admissions, arguing that the university should use tests that assess students’ mastery of core subject content rather than evaluating students on undefined measures of “aptitude” or “intelligence.”

Atkinson called for the development of new standardized tests that are more closely linked to the high school curriculum; in the meantime, UC would continue to use the SAT II achievement tests.

Atkinson’s proposal is currently under review by the Academic Senate, the representative body of the UC faculty. No changes in the university’s current test requirements will be implemented for students applying for fall 2002 admission.


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