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Is the SAT/ACT socioeconomically fair?

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    As the college application season approaches, each student is faced with the dreaded fear of needing to submit their Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or American College Test (ACT) scores. This fear can be even worse for kids that are underprivileged, whose often mediocre scores will be compared to those who have had effective and bountiful resources to achieve a near perfect score.

    It is no secret that the majority of students of lower socioeconomic levels tend to do worse on standardized testing. More specifically, teenagers that come from low income families demonstrate low performances on the SAT and ACT exams. According to the Brookings Institution Press, the average SAT score for students that have a family income between zero and 20,000 dollars is a 455. This is less than half of the highest score that one can achieve, which is a 1600. Given these shocking statistics, questions are being raised on whether standardized tests are socioeconomically fair.

    One of the reasons why low income students are performing poorly can be attributed to the fact that they are unable to afford private tutors or fancy study guides. According to PrepExpert, SAT and ACT prep can vary from free to 1,000 dollars for private tutors, while prep books can range from 10 to 50 dollars. These luxuries are often unobtainable by students of low income, which therefore puts them at a disadvantage and increases their chances of scoring poorly.

    Although low income students may not have access to expensive test preparation, there are free online resources, such as Khan Academy and free prep books in public libraries, that are easily accessible. However, many of these resources require students to self guide themselves and go that extra mile in order to achieve a decent score. In addition, online resources leave students with a distant connection as opposed to the one on one help they would receive from a private tutor. No matter the amount of free prep resources, it is simply not equivalent to the expensive and effective test preparation that high income students receive. Moreover, many low income students are raised by parents who do not have a higher education. As a result, they often have no support when it comes to trying to achieve a good score on standardized tests. On the other hand, students who come from higher class families, are often raised by parents or guardians that have had experience with these types of tests and can therefore extend a helping hand to their children. This type of support can play a major role in determining whether a student is successful in these exams or is simply left with utter disappointment.

    Standardized testing materials are often not exposed to low income students until they reach high school. Meanwhile, wealthy schools expose their students to testing strategies in their middle school years. According to the Washington Post, wealthy students are often prompted to take the PSAT in their early years, such as in the eighth grade. As result of taking the PSAT more than once, their scores show more improvements. On the other hand, most low income students aren’t exposed to the PSAT until high school. Once again, this puts low income students at a disadvantage since they have not been exposed to the test long enough to achieve a higher score. It is evident that standardized testing has not been kind to those who are economically challenged. Moreover, it seems as though achieving a near perfect score, is impossible unless one has the money, thus proving how both the SAT and ACT can be socioeconomically unfair. One’s economic background should not be a factor in whether they achieve a good or bad score on a test that plays such a big role in determining the future of the student. In a society where low income students are often set up for failure, the SAT and ACT should not add to the challenges these students are already facing.

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