How Retaking The SAT Could Get More Students To College

How Retaking The Sat Could Get More Students To College
"...low-income students and underrepresented minority students are substantially more likely to first take the SAT in the 12th grade rather than in the 11th, so they have little opportunity to retake prior to college application deadlines," says Jonathan Smith. (Credit: Laurianne Huggins/Unsplash)

A second crack at the SAT leads to higher scores, research finds.

Eliminating disparities in retake rates could close up to 10% of the income-based gap and up to 7% of the race-based gap in four-year college enrollment rates of high school graduates, findings of the working paper suggest.

Only half of SAT takers retake the exam, and those rates are even lower among low-income and underrepresented minority students.

For their study, Georgia State University economist Jonathan Smith, Joshua Goodman of Brandeis University, and Oded Gurantz of the University of Missouri performed statistical analysis on College Board data representing 12 million US students across the span of eight years.

“We provide the first causal evidence that retaking the SAT can substantially improve the college enrollment outcomes of students, particularly for those who are initially low-scoring or traditionally underrepresented in higher education,” Smith says.

One way to mitigate retake rate disparities is to encourage or incentivize students to take the exam earlier in their high school careers.

“Our data suggest that earlier first takes are strongly associated with increased retaking rates,” he says. “However, low-income students and underrepresented minority students are substantially more likely to first take the SAT in the 12th grade rather than in the 11th, so they have little opportunity to retake prior to college application deadlines.”


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Policy changes such as increased transparency about registration fee waivers available for low-income students, the college admission implications of having higher scores, and SAT scoring in general could induce retaking and help improve the test scores for these students.

Policy changes are necessary to mitigating race-based and income-based disparities in college enrollment, the research shows.

“The impact of interventions to increase retaking rates depends heavily on the broader landscape of higher education policy,” Smith says. “For example, without colleges increasing the number of available slots for enrollment, higher SAT scores for traditionally underrepresented students could just change who enrolls and not how many students enroll. And without policies to expand per-pupil funding, if college enrollment rates increase, this increase may not translate to higher rates of degree completion.”

Original Study

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