Taking the SAT as early as possible and several times might sound like a drag, but new research has found that pushing through the grueling standardized test a few times is crucial for low-income students.
High schoolers considering college from low-income homes are less likely to take the exam more than once, according to a study reported by the New York Times Monday. That’s in part because wealthy white and Asian-American high schoolers are often advised on when and how often to take the SAT, according to economists Joshua S. Goodman, Oded Gurantz and Jonathan Smith who released their study Monday.
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Students from families making over $100,000 a year are 21 percentage points more likely to retake college entrance exams than students whose families make $50,000. More than 40% of students from communities of color waited until senior year to take the SAT, compared to 20% of white and Asian-American students.
The group of researchers gathered data from over 10 million students who took the SAT to look at how retaking the test impacted their results and college options.
Those who retook the test increased their scores and had better odds of actually enrolling in a four-year undergraduate school, where they were more likely to graduate and receive a degree than at a two-year school. Goodman is convinced ACT test results would follow a similar trend if studied.
Inadequate test preparation is only one of the many ways students living in poverty are at a disadvantage due to lack of information when it comes to the college application process. While the process is pricey, when factoring in prep classes, additional fees, and tuition, additional research found low-income students tend to assume college admissions cost more. They also miss deadlines and don’t end up applying to more competitive schools they could get into. This leads students to miss out on the College Board’s fee waivers that cover two SAT tests and the cost of sending scores as part of their applications.
Interesting use of "left-digit bias" (the tendency to read £4.99 as £4-ish rather than £5-ish) to measure how often richer and poorer kids retake their exams: https://t.co/1WgrszPzXV— Tim Harford (@TimHarford) August 28, 2018
Raising the retake rate by income would close the four-year college enrollment gap between low-income and high-income students and close racial disparities. How to fix the situation? Some states started covering the cost for college entrance exams and conducting them during school hours, which is a start. Research showed students who wouldn’t have taken the test otherwise performed well and displayed their college admittance potential.
“Relative to the world we live in today, encouraging disadvantaged low-income students and minorities to retake the SAT more often would help close the college enrollment gap. The really broad questions about whether either of those worlds is the best possible world, we’ll have to leave for another day,” Goodman told the Times.