Are the SATs Discriminatory?

The Underappreciated Merits of Standardized Testing

April 2021


This video is part of our Kite & Key Shorts series—easy to understand...but hard to forget.


These days, students aren’t the only ones who hate the SAT.

The test’s critics say it’s racially discriminatory and biased against kids who can’t afford tutors.

That’s one reason why 53% of colleges have stopped requiring it.i

But what if dropping the SAT requirement actually hurts the students it’s intended to help?

Without SATs, students are judged primarily by grades and extracurriculars.

Judging by grades might sound fair, but research shows grade inflation is highest in wealthy areas.ii

As for extracurriculars, kids in poverty participate at a far lower level.iii

So, the SAT is one of the only ways to level the playing field for disadvantaged kids.

Last year, the University of California system announced that it would stop requiring the tests—which is strange...because its own faculty had concluded that SATs help underprivileged students.

In 2018, over 22,000 students who wouldn’t have otherwise qualified to get into UC schools were guaranteed admission because of their SAT scores.

Of that group, 25% were underrepresented minorities.

47% were low-income or first-generation college students.iv

We should judge students by their abilities, not their parents’ net worth.

Standardized tests may well be the best tool we have for that



  1. 53% of colleges no longer require the SAT.
  2. Not factoring in test scores may actually harm underprivileged students in admissions decisions.
  3. Nearly 50% of those admitted to the University of California on the basis of SAT scores alone were low-income or first-generation college students.





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