Creating Equality in the Education Field

women sat takersEntering the Test Preparation arena close to 10 years ago, SanLi has made an effort to create equality for all races and ethnicities.  However, we never realized we would also contribute to gender equality as we assumed there was parity between the sexes before we helped all the Chinese and Asian kids throughout Asia as one of the Top Providers of SAT and ACT Test Preparation.

Forbes recently reported that the New SAT is continuing the trend of men outdoing their female counterparts on the exam: 

Over the last several decades, men have consistently scored over 30 points higher than women on the math SAT. In 2015, for example, women averaged a score of 496 while men’s average score was 527. Unfortunately, SAT scores not only impact university admission offers, but also influence women’s self-perceptions of their own math ability. And that’s not all.  SAT scores turn up again in post-college job interviews and can influence major life choices including career decisions and college majors. Now, the College Board, who administer the SAT, may be making things even worse for women who are struggling to catch up to their male peers on these tests.

On top of this, the New York Times reports that in the first international implementation of the revised exam, there were two questions (at least) that were buttressing gender bias:

The two items, one in the verbal portion and one in the math section, posed what some test-prep experts considered a textbook example of “stereotype threat.” When people are reminded during a test of a negative stereotype about their race or sex, psychologists say, it creates a kind of test anxiety that leads them to underperform.

The math question involved a chart showing more boys than girls in math classes over all.

The verbal section asked students to analyze a 19th-century polemic arguing that women’s place was in the home.

The math question also showed up on the practice questions available to students before the test and it was argued that perhaps it could trigger more stress for women:

The math question was identical to one on a practice test, which showed a chart of 10th graders in which there were more boys than girls taking math.

The two SAT items appeared to be classic examples of situations that might trigger stereotype-driven test anxiety, said Joshua Aronson, an associate professor of applied psychology at New York University who, with Claude Steele, pioneered the research on the subject in the mid-1990s.

Forbes continues by pointing out this extra stress could actually reduce scores for specific groups:

Numerous studies have found that reminding people of stereotypes prior to taking the test can wreak havoc with their scores. One of my favorite of these studies shows how stereotype threat can account for the entire gender difference in the exam scores. The researchers recruited a group high-performing male and female math students as participants. Half of the participants were told that there were gender differences on the test (reminding them of the stereotype), and that men generally received higher scores than women. The other half were told that no gender differences were found in test results. When the participants were told there were no gender differences in the test results, the women performed equally as well as the men. However, on the exact same test, when participants were told that men tended to perform better, the women performed worse than the men.

Stereotype threat accounted for all of the gender differences in performance on the math test in the study. And the differences aren’t small. Stereotype threat has been shown to account for about 15 points on a 100-point test. In other words, women who are equally prepared score 15% lower than the men. Others estimate that stereotype threat accounts for 30 points on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) quantitative exam which is scored on a 200-800 scale. Not only that, there is some evidence of stereotype boost. That is, reminding men of these stereotypes (that men are superior at math), can actually improve their performance on the test – thus widening the gap even further.

Fortunately, for SanLi, we’ve had many women score high.  Among our 2400’s and many of our 95%+ scorers were women who now attend some of the top universities including Columbia, Princeton and Stanford.  We’re happy to say that we not only expose these deficiencies on the exam along with the fact we treat the exam as something you can easily overcome.